Monday, November 11, 2013

About a professor, generals, the old guard, and a magazine cover...

I have one more job-title comment to make. I do not know John Miksic personally but his archaeological efforts in Singapore -- over many years -- have made him well-known. He is no still-wet-behind-the-ears academic. So I was surprised that no one at all levels of checking asked an obvious question that would have averted an error in the news story (Straits Times, Nov 11) below:

This man is an authority on Singapore's history yet no one asked why he is still an assistant professor -- the most junior grade! I did my own checks and found that he is an associate professor, the position most academics on the professorial track attain after being on the faculty for a number of years, and with a good resume of refereed publications. A smaller number go on to attain the status of professor.

It is impossible for a newspaper to be totally error-free but the example above was an avoidable one, especially since many of ST's editorial staff are university graduates who surely cannot claim to be ignorant about academic staff ranks.

Note: It is perfectly all right, on second and subsequent mentions, to refer to Miksic as Professor Miksic. This fairly typical journalistic convention also applies to someone who is an assistant professor. But get that first mention right! Likewise, someone may be a brigadier general, a major general, a lieutenant general or a general (ie, from a one-star general to a four-star general) but, on second mention onwards, they are all "generals".

Here's another (recent) error that should have been spotted:

The collective term is "old guard", not "old guards".

Finally, here's what looks like a hilarious magazine cover which made this celebrity chef/TV host a cannibal!...

But it's a hoax. Here's the real deal, with the necessary commas in place:

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