If no news send kittens

What we’re talking about

This election has been hard. It has tested the conventions of political discourse and decency. It has highlighted and deepened the divisions in our country.

The good news is that it’s almost over, and there is only one debate left between the two major candidates.

As we did for the first showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, BDN Portland is hosting a debate-watching party at Think Tank Coworking on Congress Street on Wednesday, Oct. 19. We’ll stream it live on the projector and offer some free food.

This time, we’ve also decided to add a little extra support to those who need it.

We’re teaming up with Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, which will bring nine therapy kittens to the party for anyone who needs to take a break from the political slugfest. (Kittens tend to make most things better.) If you fall in love with one, the group will have adoption surveys you can fill out.

The party starts at 8 and wraps up at 11. If you’re interested in coming, please reserve a free ticket here.

Oh, and please leave your dog at home, just to be safe.

(Bangor Daily News)


Character study

So AP could have headlined the Creation, but was beaten by the One Great Wire Editor.

Q. Is there an AP standard for the approximate length of a headline? – from Warrensburg, Mo. on Mon, Oct 03, 2016

A. AP stories carry two headlines for clients’ varying needs %u2013 a short one with no more than 60 characters and a longer, or extended, one with a maximum of 94 characters.

(AP’s Ask the Editor)

Parallel Verses
New International Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


New Living Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


English Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.


New American Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


King James Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


Holman Christian Standard Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


International Standard Version
In the beginning, God created the universe.


NET Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


New Heart English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


GOD’S WORD® Translation
In the beginning God created heaven and earth.


JPS Tanakh 1917
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


New American Standard 1977
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Jubilee Bible 2000
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


King James 2000 Bible
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


American King James Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


American Standard Version
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Douay-Rheims Bible
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.


Darby Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


English Revised Version
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


Webster’s Bible Translation
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


World English Bible
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


Young’s Literal Translation
In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth —


How to write a lede

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(As it started out after the decision was announced. Doesn’t tell the reader much.)


WASHINGTON — TheA short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down without comment a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision.

(Deleting an unimportant detail, and adding a slightly less unimportant detail.)


WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(Aha. Now we see why it’s important, in 14 more words.)


The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to reconsider a challenge to President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the United States.

(As it’s confusingly blurbed on Google; that can be read as, “Challenge rejected again, plan goes through.”)


WASHINGTON — A short-handed Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from the Obama administration to reconsider a major immigration decision, dooming for now President Obama’s plan to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

(As it now appears on the Times site.)

(New York Times, Google and NewsDiffs)


This and that

Is there anything that alcohol can’t do?


In August, Washington Post Managing Editor Cameron Barr and his fellow senior editors decided to do something about a problem that had been niggling at them for some time:

Articles were becoming too long, often for no good reason.

“We were seeing too many pieces that were in the mid-range of their ambition and their success — coming in at 60, 70 inches of copy,” Barr said. “We were seeing the same thing in a number of blogs, where pieces were just too long, and we felt as though editors were not applying the necessary discipline and rigor in how these pieces were being handled on the desk.”

The solution? A newsroom-wide initiative to cut down on editorial flab, Barr said. Since the middle of August, he’s asked Post’s department heads to take responsibility for articles longer than 1,500 words online or 50 inches in print. Bylines, captions, headlines and subheadings don’t count.

The idea, Barr says, is to “promote a sense and awareness of responsibility” among reporters and editors that stories shouldn’t be long for length’s sake.

Barr hasn’t crunched the numbers on cumulative story length since the initiative went into place, but he’s noticed more pieces coming in at just under the 1,500-word benchmark.

The senior editor who runs the copy desk produces a list of stories that go over the line, which Barr keeps an eye on. But there are no consequences for going over — just the occasional revision for a piece that is deemed “unnecessarily long.”

“What we want to do is make the writing better,” Barr said. “We’re not interested in punishing people. It’s not a data-driven enterprise. It’s a quality-driven enterprise.”

There are, however, rewards for coming up short. Editor-reporter duos who turn in a front-page enterprise story under 1,000 words are awarded the “Brevity Cup,” a distinction that comes with drinks out with a managing editor. The first winners, reporter Ann Marimow and editor Mary Pat Flaherty, won for a front-page story about a court battle over a D.C. gun ban and will soon be treated at The Jefferson, an old Post haunt.



Thirteenth Amendment latest

Journalists at Honolulu’s Civil Beat have probably gotten used to the platinum-haired man who comes in twice a week, parks himself and his laptop in an open common area of the newsroom, speaks up with questions and offers context now and then.

That’s Ron Hochuli.

He’s the intern.

He’s also 72.

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Both he and the newsroom are figuring out how a retired community member with stints in banking, education, philosophy (he was a Catholic monk for a bit) and even a stab at local politics can bring that experience to an internship that benefits all of them.

If it works out, they’ll launch a new program called Kupuna Fellows.

“Kupuna in Hawaii means revered elders,” said Patti Epler, Civil Beat’s editor and general manager. “It’s a very common word here.”

But a retiree scoring an internship in an unfamiliar field is a very uncommon arrangement (unless you’re in Hollywood).

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Hochuli, who spent 25 years managing money at Merrill Lynch, has a tremendous work ethic, Simmons said, has taken notes at two city council meetings and has learned to shoot video. He’s digging into affordable housing issues and brings insights into the newsroom that aren’t already there.

“It’s that layer of expertise and senior experience built on a lifetime in the private sector that he’s bringing to bear on our coverage,” Simmons said.

And benefits for the newsroom are benefits for the community, too, Epler said.

“We’ll have a richer, deep understanding of the issues, and we’ll be able to pass that on to readers.”

That’s nice. How much are you paying him?

Simmons thinks places such as Florida or Arizona where many retire to might benefit from this kind of newsroom/retiree collaboration.

Hochuli thinks other retired professionals might have something to offer, too.

“It doesn’t cost Civil Beat money, yet you’re going to have different life experiences looking at things,” he said.





This and that

The last optimist in the print racket was Gutenberg, and he died broke.



(Columbia Journalism Review)


And then I stopped reading

Dear Readers,

My name is Yasna Haghdoost, and I am the Thresher Editor in Chief for the 2016-17 academic year. I began my career at the Thresher as a lowly arts and entertainment writer my freshman year, where I recall my very fi rst theater review being brutally eviscerated by our copy editor before it went to print.

(The Rice Thresher, Houston)


From the archives

Style sheet, Michigan State News, first Nixon administration.


Style sheet page one 001Style sheet page two 001Style sheet page three 001


And then I stopped reading

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos…

(NBC News)


This and that

No more copy desks, so no more place of internal exile for screw-ups, alas.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Mercury News of San Jose, California, apologized Friday for an insensitive headline about U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel.

The 20-year-old Stanford University student became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event when she tied for first with Penny Oleksiak of Canada in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night.

After the race, the San Francisco Bay Area newspaper omitted Manuel’s name in a headline reading “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.”

The Mercury News, which covered Manuel’s collegiate career at nearby Stanford, tweeted an apology, saying the headline was insensitive.

It was posted on the newspaper’s website about 9:45 p.m. and quickly removed and replaced with one carrying Manuel’s name with Phelps. The headline was not printed in the newspaper.

Readers took to social media sites almost as soon as the offensive headline was posted to complain about the gaffe.

“This is a terrible headline,” Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakwami posted on Twitter while the headline was still live. “It’s my paper. I might get in trouble for saying it, but it’s a terrible headline.”

Executive Editor Neil Chase said no one will be disciplined because it appears there were no bad intentions in writing the headline.

Instead, Chase said there will be a “tough conversation” to determine exactly how the headline came to be written and published without any staffer raising concern. He said a “couple different people saw it” before it was posted.

Chase said The Mercury News, like many media companies, is working with smaller staffs than in the past in an era of increased demand during a 24-hour news cycle.

“That’s no excuse,” he said. “We made a mistake.”



Click, meet bait




I’d like to think we haven’t started any domestic spats. I’d like to think there’s never been an occasion when two partners were sitting across from each other, looking at their laptops, with one saying, “Hey, did you see this Times headline about Trump getting $2 billion worth of free publicity?” and the other replying, “You’re crazy. It doesn’t say anything at all about $2 billion.”

I’d like to think that, but I could well be wrong — because they could both be right.

In one effort to increase readership, The Times is using a tool that allows us to simultaneously present two different headlines for the same article on its home page. Half of readers on the page see one headline; half see the other. The test measures the difference in readers clicking on the article and lets us know if the numbers are statistically significant. If so, the winning headline goes on the home page for all readers.

And so, for a short while on March 15, one reader might have seen this:

$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Trump

While another saw this:

Measuring Trump’s Media Dominance

Any guesses on which won the test, and by how much?

The top one got nearly three times as many readers, which underlines the crucial role of headlines in the digital age.

A story might be 1,000 words long, but tweaking the tiny handful of words that promoted this one on our home page gave us 297 percent more readers.

In other cases, headline tests have increased readership by an order of magnitude.

(New York Times)



UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar left a note at scene, asking someone to “check on my cat,” LAPD police chief says.

When detectives arrived at William Klug’s office at the UCLA campus Wednesday, they found a note from Sarkar, 38, listing his home address in Minnesota and a request to check on his cat’s welfare, Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times.

“Immediately, we were highly suspicious,” Beck said. “That made me uneasy about what we would find when we got to Minnesota.”

Sarkar took his own life Wednesday morning after killing William Klug, 39, in a small office in UCLA Engineering Building 4, according to authorities.

Klug, who was shot multiple times, was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Klug, another UCLA professor and a woman who lived in a nearby Minnesota town were named in a “kill list” found in Sakar’s home.

The LAPD worked with the FBI and Minnesota authorities and served a search warrant at Sarkar’s home. Inside, Beck said, they found the list, extra ammunition and a box for one of the two pistols found at the UCLA scene.

Authorities went to the woman’s home, Beck said, and found her body inside. It appeared she had been dead from a gunshot wound for “maybe a couple of days,” the chief said.

Beck declined to name the woman, but said Sarkar was the suspect in her slaying.

“We would physically arrest him were he still alive,” the chief said.

(Los Angeles Times)


So it wasn’t the copy

That new dynamic has roiled the ranks of the newsroom, creating a divide between top editors who see it as part of their job to review coverage of Mr. Adelson, and staff members who chafe at what they perceive as inappropriate interference. In the nearly six months since Mr. Adelson purchased the paper, at least a dozen journalists have quit, been fired or made plans to leave soon; many cite a strained work environment and untenable oversight, in particular regarding the coverage of a bitter legal dispute related to Sands’s operations in Macau.

There are advantages to having a billionaire as an owner, staff members agree. The newspaper has hired reporters and a graphic artist, and is upgrading its videography and photography equipment. Some employees, including Ms. Robison, have been given pay raises. A broken sewer pipe under the building has been fixed. Recently, the paper bought drones to use for news coverage.

(New York Times)


The less things change, etc.

TAMPA, Fla. — A pair of 18-wheel rigs waited outside the former printing plant of The Tampa Tribune on a recent afternoon. Workers were busy dismantling machinery and hauling it away, preparing for the building’s demolition. Nearby, in what had been the newsroom, file folders, reporters’ notebooks and other detritus lay scattered on the floor, evidence of a hasty retreat.

The Tribune, whose motto was “Life. Printed Daily,” was abruptly shut down on May 3 after having covered this city and its environs for 123 years. The reasons for its demise were familiar: precipitous drops in advertising, the rush of readers to the web, the fallout of the economic recession. But this particular case felt a little more personal — and left the journalists who found themselves suddenly out of work with the sense that they had been betrayed.

It was The Tribune’s main competitor, The Tampa Bay Times, based 25 miles away in St. Petersburg and owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, that dealt the knockout punch by purchasing The Tribune and then immediately shutting it down.

The deal for the purchase of The Tribune from the Revolution Capital Group was struck almost five months ago, but was not revealed until this month. Tribune employees said they knew nothing about the paper’s planned sale to its rival, and believed that, their building having been sold to a Miami developer, they would move into new offices in Tampa as soon as suitable space could be found.

“People feel like fools, they feel like dupes and they feel deceived,” said Michelle Bearden, a 20-year veteran of The Tribune who was laid off in 2014 and keeps in close touch with former colleagues. “Revolution had already inked the deal with The Tampa Bay Times to sell the paper. There was never any intention to find a new home and continue The Tribune as a competitive entity. There was no commitment to this community, no intention to try to make this newspaper profitable again, no interest in preserving a historical tradition.”

(New York Times, May 20, 2016)

The Detroit Times, with a circulation of around 300,000, went under late in 1960. The blow fell, as usual, without warning — the theory being that employees, if they know a paper is to be scuttled, will slack off in their work. Members of the Times staff, coming to work in the morning, found locks on the office doors.

(A.J. Liebling, “The Press,” 1961)


Reminiscence best left to the past


Reminiscing about the future is frustrating.


More clickbait


“We want something easy for Post journalists to go into, find, and embed within their stories, and to get the whole organization thinking: what’s the best way to get a user to understand and engage with a story?”


Yes, let’s do something “easy.”

Bingo games, quizzes and the like belong to something other than the journalistic enterprise. If the Post wants to devote resources to such projects, more power to it — but it can’t pretend they’re something that they’re not.


The good old days

From AP’s Matt Lee. Since he works for a wire service we’ve tried to put his grafs in order.


Capture cap1 cap2 cap3 cap4


Today’s classroom assignment

Handout: Budweiser renames its beer “America.” Now write a “news” story lede.

In a fitting metaphor for the country’s national anxiety, a former cultural icon that peaked in the 1950s and was taken over by multinational interests in the 21st century is now called “America.”

(The Atlantic)

American currency has long held claim to being the only thing found in bars that boasts the phrase “E Pluribus Unum.”  This summer, Budweiser wants to change that by rebranding itself as “America” and peppering its packaging with that very phrase, alongside some others like “Liberty and Justice for All” and “Indivisible Since 1776.”

(Washington Post)

Most people have heard the “USA, USA, USA!” chant at some point in their lives, typically by college frat bros who may have had a little too much to drink.

Well now, those frat bros — and you — can literally get drunk on America.

(Miami Herald)

NEW YORK (AP) – There’s no trademark on America.

(AP via 12 News)

NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — There’s no trademark on America and one company is taking advantage of the fact.

(AP via CBS)

Nothing says ‘America’ like an ice-cold can of mass-produced beer.

(USA Today)

Just in case Budweiser’s galloping horse-filled commercials overlaid with text like “not soft,” “not small,” “not imported” wasn’t a tipoff, the beer company wants you to know that they’re American as apple pie. (Well, except for the fact that they’re owned by Belgian corporation Anheuser-Busch, but let’s not get bogged down in minutia.) The company will double down on its patriotism this summer when it renames itself “America.”


Budweiser has one-upped Donald Trump’s promise to make America great again by making America beer.


The “King of Beers” is taking patriotic branding to a new level.

(Boston Globe)


Cat news

Your go-to paper for solutions to the problem of feral cats.

Ask Real Estate is a weekly column that answers questions from across the New York region. Submit yours to realestateqa@nytimes.com.

Feeding Feral Cats

A neighbor leaves bowls of food around the neighborhood for feral cats, even placing some on the grounds of the Russian diplomatic mission at the end of our block. I’ve asked her to stop, and I remove food when I can, but to no avail. The cats treat my garden like their litter box, track mud over my car and wail and moan when they fight or mate. Worse, the food attracts skunks. A neighbor’s dog was sprayed twice and my shuttered window was sprayed, filling my house with the stench. Another neighbor and I trapped seven skunks to be released in Pelham Bay Park, but there are more. What recourse do I have?

Riverdale, Bronx


Until the endless buffet subsides, skunks will continue to forage nearby. A state-licensed wildlife control expert could keep trapping them, but other wildlife will follow, and a professional will not trap and remove the cats. “They could be somebody’s pet,” said Diego Vasquez, the owner of Dr. Pest Control NY, an environmental services company in Queens.

Turn your attention to the cats. Reach out to the feral cat initiative, which advocates a method known as trap-neuter-return, or T.N.R., to control feral colonies. The animals are captured so they can be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their colony. Tame ones can be adopted. Once neutered, they will no longer spray, fight or mate, so over time, their numbers dwindle.

(New York Times, May 7)


What in the World offers you glimpses of what our journalists are observing around the globe. Let us know what you think: whatintheworld@nytimes.com

The Internet may never tire of cats, but the people of Ypres, Belgium, sure did — to the point that they created a whole city celebration out of tossing cats to their death from a bell tower.

The practice apparently dates from the Middle Ages, when Ypres, a market town in Flanders, first prospered as a center of clothmaking. The city’s warehouses would fill with bales of imported wool waiting to be woven, and bolts of finished cloth waiting to be sold at an annual fair.

The warehouses drew mice and rats, which would nest and breed prolifically in an environment like that. To keep the vermin from chewing up the goods, the story goes, merchants would bring in a few hungry cats to hunt them. But the hunters would multiply, too, and by the time of the fair each spring, the place would be overrun with feral cats creating a nuisance of their own.

In those crueler times, hurling cats from a great height on what came to be known as “Cats Wednesday” was apparently seen in Ypres as both a practical solution and a source of gruesome entertainment — the more so because popular superstitions linked cats to witchcraft and the devil. According to a history posted online by the city, in the Middle Ages many European towns dealt with feral-cat problems in similarly inhumane ways, but it was Ypres that retained the bloody reputation.

(New York Times, May 10)


Headline Writing 101

A tough story to headline (economics professor says another airline passenger sees professor writing equations, thinks he’s a terrorist scribbling his to-do list, raises a hue and cry). So many news sites got it wrong, or at least not quite right.

Professor suspected of being a terrorist because of a math equation (USA Today)  (No.)
Professor: flight was delayed because my equations raised terror fears (Guardian) (Closer.)
Ivy League professor dubbed plane terrorist for math equation (CBS) (“Dubbed”?)
Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight (Washington Post) (Not quite.)
Flight delayed as professor suspected of bomb plot due to equation he was writing (RT) (“Due to”?)
Doing math on plane gets professor accused of being terrorist (AP via St. Louis Post-Dispatch) (Also not quite.)
Professor’s Airplane Math Didn’t Equal Airplane Threat (AP via New York Times) (Closer.)
 Italian Ivy League economist pulled off flight and interrogated for ‘mysterious’ scribblings flagged up by another passenger… which turned out to be MATH (Daily Mail) (As if you had to ask.)
An Ivy League professor is reportedly harassed on a plane for ‘doing math’ (Bizpac Review) (Huh?)
Ivy League prof from Italy racially profiled on American Airlines flight, interrogated for math equations: ‘It is hard not to recognize … the ethos of Trump’s voting base’ (New York Daily News) (No comment.)