Was It Something I Said?

This morning I decided to get up bright and early and sift through the freshly-fallen drifts on the InterWebs so that I could reward the people who've been waiting for a new post. (Thank you both, btw...)

One of the first things to catch my eye was a local news story that I'd seen briefly on a 6p.m. broadcast last evening. It seems a student at a Clovis, Calif., high school has been accused of bullying and "sexual battery" of an opponent during a wrestling match. Since I've always pretty much felt (and I'm guessing I'm not alone here) that collegiate-style wrestling is really nothing but thinly-veiled and highly-organized sexual assault, I was intrigued to find out exactly what might be considered "a step too far."

The wrestler in question apparently used a move called a "butt drag" and in doing so placed a couple of fingers where they shouldn't have been. (I'm sure you can figure the rest out. If not head to the nearest adult book store immediately and rent anything from Falcon Studios or Vivid Video's male-on-male line.) The accused and his coach are claiming that it was an accidental invasion and wasn't done with any malicious intent, but the parents of the other boy (and their legal mouthpiece) aren't having it. They're demanding that the alleged agressor be expelled.

So there you have the meat of the thing (pardon the pun) - but that's not what we're here to discuss. On Tuesday night's "DJabberwock with Jim & Jen," I began the show by asking my lovely co-host Jen what was bugging her. Without hesitation she took the opportunity to vent about the daily assault on the English language. (In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that Jen is a 4th grade English teacher.)

And I can't say that I don't find myself railing at the television all the time when a commercial ("If you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of taking..." I'm wondering how many claims have been filed by dead "you's."), a TV anchor, a reporter - or, heaven help us, an aspiring politician - fires off a clunker that should never reach the airwaves and pollute impressionable minds. At the end of the segment Tuesday, Jen told viewers we were serving notice on the world that we weren't going to stand for mangled grammar any longer. "We'll correct you - in public - and we won't feel bad about it!," she warned.

Well that didn't take long.

When I clicked on the headline on the local news site hoping to read more about the wrestling incident, I was faced with a 10-sentence story that contained almost as many errors. Granted, the first one that caught my eye was quite amusing - the substitution of "explosion" for "expulsion." (Ah, the pitfalls of spell-check...) But as I read on I stopped being entertained and got - say it with me class - outraged. So I did what I've done before in cases like this. I fired off the following email to the News Director and the Station Manager.

 I know it was after 11p.m. when the story I'm writing about went up online, but it's never too late for proofreading - especially for a mainstream news source reporting on such a sensitive issue. The story I'm referring to is the piece about the young man in Clovis accused of sexual battery during a wrestling match titled "Expulsion Recommended For Accused Wrestler."

This was the first thing that jumped off the screen at me: "'As far as the case I can't comment but for the explosion, you know, I'm happy,' said Ross Rice, allege victim’s father."

I wasn't there to hear him speak but I'm going to assume Mr. Rice said "expulsion." Based on the comment thread, several sharp-eyed readers apparently spotted a similar error earlier in the story's headline, which actually makes the fact that the same mistake remains in the body of the piece that much worse. And I'm guessing that Mr. Rice is also the "alleged victim's father" not the "allege victim's father."

Unfortunately, these were not the only problems with the post. This brief story also contains a sentence fragment ("An emotional day for all those involved."), a poorly worded sentence - or fragment, depending on how you look at it - that includes a punctuation error ( "But victory as the alleged victim’s father puts it after hearing the districts decision."), another sentence with TWO punctuation errors ( "The three-member panel decided the 17-year old accused wrestler committed sexual battery, an obscene act and bullying when using the maneuver known as a 'butt drag' during a wrestling practice.") and a confusingly worded quote with yet another punctuation error ('"Even though that coach was to slam dunk it and will be a slam dunk in front of the jury. In front of this board, it doesn't matter,' said McGill.")

Had this 10-sentence story been turned in as an English assignment (at even an elementary school level), the reporter (or the person responsible for transcribing on-air stories and posting them online) would be receiving a failing grade. As it stands, the post is completely unacceptable on the website of one of the three major news networks in the Fresno area. I understand that the Internet has spawned a whole new set of disagreements about how things should be written - and that blogs that take a conversational tone are a particular source of contention when it comes to the use of proper English - but that does not excuse blatant grammatical errors.

For some time now, CBS 47 has been the only place I've felt comfortable turning for local news because the other stations seem to be very lax with their anchors and reporting staff when it comes to pronunciation. However, the glaring errors in this story, one of your female anchors repeatedly saying "din'int" instead of "didn't" lately and several of your reporters saying "liberry" instead of "library" on more than one occasion, has made me begin to question that choice.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

My email was sent at 6:18 a.m. I checked back on the story around 9 a.m. and saw that it had pretty much been entirely rewritten and updated at around 8:30 a.m. Mission accomplished. 

That's one down, millions to go.

So what do you think? Was I too harsh? But doesn't somebody have to draw a line in the sand at some point and say "No more!"? Look, I'm a writer and I know how easy it is to post a story with a typo or get in a hurry and not proof something carefully. But isn't a 10-sentence story that has a mistake in almost every sentence too much?

Dinner is served promptly at 8:00 in the private dining room. Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup.


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