Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grammar and Spelling: The Sorry State of Online Journalism

Okay, I know, I know. Financial, fiscal, physical, and political disasters abound and I'll get to them. But in reading about them online (and for that matter, offline), I am continually appalled at the pathetic state of writing, editing, and grammatical usage that abounds on the net. Online content is a veritable disaster area of howlers.

Case in point: This afternoon headline on CNBC's "Fast Money" financial news site:

Pros: S&P Resilience Could Signal Rally in Tact

I'm cutting and pasting it here now in the actual hope that someone will catch this and fix it, so if you check the link and it's fixed, great.

But in point of fact, that's the way it is right now. From my standpoint as a working journalist, the only thing that's worse than a good in your article is a goof in the headline. Such an error simply howls IGNORANCE AND CARELESSNESS to an educated reader. But it's de rigeur these days. It's a dirty little fact that most journalists really can't write very well to begin with. In recent years, economy moves have eviscerated not only the editors who used to catch and fix this kind of stuff. But in many places, I'd wager there are no copy editors or fact checkers left in the newsroom at all.

The result: the kind of stupidity you see in the example above. Obviously, the moron who wrote the headline thinks that "tact" is a word that's modified by the preposition "in." If indeed he or she knows what a preposition is. Of course, it also goes without saying that the headline writer doesn't have a clue that there is, in the English language, an actual word, "intact," which in this context would mean "the rally is still in existence. It is no longer a former rally."

It is perhaps a small part of our ongoing tragedy that neither companies nor individuals take much pride in how their work comes across anymore, particularly in the writing professions where the bottom line in conjunction with a dysfunctional educational system have taken written communication to an all-time low these days. I have less of a beef with your average blogger who does the best he or she can without a back bench. But there's simply no excuse for an outfit like CNBC which, presumably, operates at the highest level of professionalism.

Yet such a headline as the one above proves that there's little if any QC involved in CNBC's online content. And if a headline (aka "hed" in news speak) is careless, can we have much confident in the quality or veracity of the content it introduces?

I'm done. For now.

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