Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The passing of the era of craftsmanship in journalism...

Newspaper bloopers may be a source of mirth but I wonder if those spotted in contemporary times suggest a continuing decline in standards and craftsmanship, as guardians of old-school journalism fade away.

For example, the fraternity of journalists have always understood the label "journalists" to be a generic term -- its practitioners included all who "produced" the news, from reporters and sub-editors to photo-journalists as well as presenters and producers. Those at senior levels may carry fancy titles but they cut their teeth in the basic trades. It is thus surprising that no less than the Singapore Media Academy would come up with this ad which appeared in TODAY:

Aspire to be a reporter or journalist? Whoever approved this ad was as clueless as the typical layman who thinks that only reporters can be called journalists!

Being widely read and naturally curious have always been hallmarks of those who aspire to be top-rate journalists. They might even compile a personal list -- a little black book, so to speak -- of little things that can trip them up, like what exactly is a "battleship":

ST, July 30
No, there are no longer any battleships in active service! The US still has a number of World War II-era battleships mothballed or preserved as memorials.

In other words, battleships are a class of warships, which is the generic term for naval combat vessels. So, in the story above, if no one from reporter to senior editor was aware of this -- that the correct term applicable here should have been "warships" -- then the era of careful journalism in Singapore's premier newspaper would have had faded away already.

There are also "tricky" words that journalists have to be aware of. One set is "biennial" versus "biannual". The former means once every two years while the latter means once every six months. ST got that right:

But TODAY got it wrong:

Imagine a political party holding its major internal election for key party posts every six months! Once again, no one at TODAY -- from reporter to senior editor -- spotted that ridiculous error.

Even the major news organisations commit silly errors. One recent gaffe was by the BBC:

The real news was much less shocking, as reported in ST:

Remember that bad piece of headline writing by AP:

AP had to carry a clarification:

Finally, a fundamental rule in journalism is never to start a sentence with a numeral, even if that kicks off the title of a movie!...

Once upon a time, an organisation like Reuters would never have committed such a faux pas.

Incidentally, I watched the movie 300: Rise Of An Empire on board the plane while I was returning home from the US. I learnt something from the Hollywood scriptwriters; that the F-word had been used as far back as ancient Greek times!

The hero had earlier made love (sort of... I would describe the tryst as a "shortcoming") to the female villain. There followed this sword fighting scene between them where, just before he kills her, she hisses: "You fight better than you fuck."

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