Don’t believe everything you read (on teh internets)

Apparently, web reporting is exempt from being grammatically accurate, at least on wcco.com.

Yesterday, I was reading the story about the apartment building that burned in Bloomington, or at least trying to read it. I found the following errors in the story which made it nearly unreadable:
“Gone one-and-a-half hours this is what we came home to, the fire.”
And…
“We got a report of a fire on a second floor deck, it spread to the third floor, before the lines laid, already up on the roof.”
And…
“Amongst the heat, lines up stairs the roof collapsed on us.”
And…
According to the city of Bloomington, website grills are not allowed at apartments.
“Website grills”? Come ON! This is such a good example of why comma placement is crucial.

After thinking about it for a second, I realized that this must be…

…the closed captioning file from the real-time writer that they just copied and pasted onto their website to make the story, which I guess is acceptable, as are errors in real-time captioning since the writer has to steno-type as fast as people talk, but taking that file and pasting it onto the internet without any sort of editing and calling it reporting the news? That’s just plain lazy.

So I emailed the “reporter,” Sue Turner:

Just a suggestion…You might want to proofread the stories to which you attach your name on the WCCO website. In this story in particular [about the apartment fire in Bloomington], many punctuation and grammatical errors were made. As a professional captioner, it looks to me like the caption file was simply copied and pasted onto the website…Errors in copy on the internet that have time to be edited…are inexcusable.

You might also want to proofread your bio to make sure you are using the homonyms “affect” and “effect” correctly. Isn’t the point of journalism to communicate news stories clearly and effectively? If so, you should take greater care to do so, no matter what the media.

And I received the following standard reply:

Thanks Kristie; I actually don’t do the webstuff. I forwarded it to our internet department.

I will note that she spelled my name wrong, even though I signed my email and my name is in my email address, and she apparently invented a new word: “webstuff.” Heh.

BUT!!! They re-edited the story! It’s not perfect, but it’s better. Too bad it wasn’t that way when the story first broke when a lot more people were probably reading and trying to comprehend it. Sue’s bio has also been updated. At least it’s good to know that WCCO will fix their mistakes…eventually.

I guess the question I’m still left with is, do they not teach English in journalism school anymore?

5 Comments so far

  1. Amanda (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    I have to chime in and say that my lease at that apartment complex ended Friday, just a day before The Chaos. I drove down there yesterday to see if it was my old building (since they haven’t gotten my damage deposit back), but it was the one across the street from my former residence.

    For the record, according to the rules and regulations of the complex, charcoal grills are not allowed on balconies or within 15 feet of the buildings. But this rule and many others were not enforced, and in the three years I lived there, I saw people grilling up on balconies on many occasions. Rumor has it that there was a rug under this particular grill as well.

    Kristi, you are an awesome grammar warrior! Keep fighting the good fight!


  2. Kristi (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    I meant to ask you, when you were there yesterday, did you talk to any former neighbors and–ahem–inform them of your fortunate circumstances?


  3. Amanda (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:35 am

    No, I didn’t. But they interviewed someone else on the news that had just moved from that building to some townhomes right behind it. He was actually in the process of moving out when it started, but he had gotten all of his big, expensive items out by that point.


  4. Erica (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 11:23 am

    Grammar warrior. Heh.

    That was nice that they were responsive. I suppose there’s a reason why reporters are reporters and not editors.


  5. noodleman (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    Some people b*tch about having their grammar (and spelling) corrected … that those “things” aren’t important anymore … and yet these same people wonder why they’re misunderstood. IMHO it’s a failing of our education system that spelling and grammar have become marginalized in favor of more touchy-feely curricula.

    Not that I’m a perfect grammarian or speller.

    Affect? Effect? Not only do the words have different meanings; each is pronounced differently, too.



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