To silence a jerk, whose name will not be published here, ignore him

If someone bullies you with insults and mockery, as did a rival to Carly Fiorina – “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” –  you should:

A) call him on it using the words “sexism” or “offensive,” thereby demonstrating your weak, feminized, grievance-based victimhood;

B) get over it, toughen up and refuse to be an oversensitive ninny or a loser.

Option B is what one columnist urges Fiorina to choose when she faces that loudmouth tonight in the debate of Republican candidates for the party’s presidential nomination. According to the columnist, the loudmouth’s supporters like him because he has the balls to offend people. Those who object to being accosted by a jerk, whom the columnist describes as “walking testosterone,” simply invite further abuse and weary those who aren’t oversensitive losers.

What a great way to collude with abusers while burdening their targets with a phony stigma.

This view associates being a rude jerk with manliness, or at least with testosterone. Are there any men out there brave enough to dispute that, despite the risk of being jeered by rude jerks?

The best way for anyone to respond to such boorish behavior, writes the columnist, is to avoid using terms sneeringly deemed as “politically correct,” since that will only spur jerks on. But instead of hobbling one’s vocabulary, I suggest a different course: regal silence. Do not deign to acknowledge jerks.

Attention of any kind fuels them. Their greatest fear is to be ignored. Deal with them as you would a bad smell from someone deliberately and delightedly farting in a crowd. Ignore him until he and the smell go away.

 

Religion kills again

In Kabul, a mob of men killed a woman accused of having burned pages from the Koran. In Brooklyn, seven children burned to death after a hot plate malfunctioned and sent flames racing through the house. Their mother had left it on all night so she could warm food for them the next day. It was a way to circumvent religious restrictions on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

Those children and the woman in Afghanistan, along with countless millions during human history, died because people confused obedience to rules of religion with moral behavior. Mindless adherence to arcane, arbitrary dictates never elevated anyone. But it does let those men in Kabul believe the murder they committed was sanctified, while the grieving parents in Brooklyn try to convince themselves that their loss was “God’s will,” instead of a choice that gave the physical hazard of a hot plate left on too long less importance than the perceived spiritual peril of cooking a meal.

In all cases of religious-based violence and suffering, the perpetrators thrust responsibility for the mayhem on the demands of obedience to rules or the failure of others to obey. It’s the victim’s fault, or part of a deity’s mysterious plan. In truth, we kill each other by our own choices in the here-and-now.

The way we treat others is the best measure of morality. And by that measure, religions have failed.

(This links to a 2-minutes video showing the Afghan victim being beaten and stomped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6SjE9EslKA)

Glazed and confused

Photo from veryveganrecipes.com

Photo from veryveganrecipes.com

Margaret Holt, standards editor at the Chicago Tribune, kindly responded yesterday to questions about why errors recently have plagued the paper’s weather page.

“The weather page is produced for the Chicago Tribune through a collaborative effort with the WGN-TV news department,” she wrote in an email. The Chicago Tribune owns WGN. “I asked the producer who coordinates the project for WGN about these errors.”

That person, she wrote, “explained that WGN editors had some recent schedule shifts and production issues that, in combination, reduced the amount of editing time on deadline. As a result of these problems, he says, a new deadline schedule has been implemented and he has been working with Tribune editors to give the desk more time on the print product.”

It will be gratifying to see the Chicago Tribune’s weather page meeting professional standards again, but it won’t be as much fun. Each day of reading it was like panning through the usual drab verbiage for gold, and these are the latest nuggets:

On 1/31: “Some lake effect flurries early the mixed sun and clouds.”

On 2/5: “High peak in the middle 30s then slide into the 20s as wind shift into the north and increase to 15-25 mph.”

On 2/6: “Some glazing late and overnight as temps slowly fall below freezing” and “Drizzle and light rain will develop this weekend, resulting in some glazing…”

It’s probably tough on weather-page wordsmiths to confine their writing to the repetitive phrases of forecasting. Boredom must tempt them to liven up the page with an occasional flourish such as “glazing,” which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as, “The action, process or trade of fitting windows with glass.” Not mentioned is this commonly understood meaning: “The process of adding a delicious, sugary coating on doughnuts.”

Readers aren’t likely to think that rain and falling temperatures will cause windows or sugar coating to appear on the landscape. But to eliminate any possible question about the substance, the word “iciness” would do nicely.

 

New low recorded on Chicago Tribune weather page

“Thursday’s Highest: 8° at Laredo, Texas”

Only 74°off, because someone accidentally left off the second digit, 2, and someone else didn’t catch the error before publication.

I was really hoping that today would be another one of those rare days when the Chicago Tribune weather page didn’t contain a single mistake. Honestly, after chronicling errors on that page on seven of the past nine days, I was rooting for them.

This is what high school English teachers must endure while grading essays for advanced-placement classes, in which kids too bright to be making such ridiculous mistakes are sometimes too lazy to proofread properly before turning in their work.

It’s easy to imagine their excuses: “I didn’t have time,” “I did proofread it,” “What’s the big deal?”

It would be great if someone could honestly tell them that, in the real world of professional, grown-up endeavors, that kind of sloppiness isn’t allowed. But readers of the Chicago Tribune weather page know better.

Chicago Tribune standards editor elevated to mystery job

Today’s weather page in the Chicago Tribune looked free of errors for the first time in days, until I got to the forecast for Monday, Feb. 2: “Light southerly winds strengthen and become more SE at”

On today’s business page, the paper announced that “Margaret Holt, 63, will be elevated to recognize her role as standards editor for the newspaper.” This brief clause in one sentence is the only mention of Holt in the article, a lengthy description about five senior editors and their new jobs at the paper. The other four editors got a lot of attention: detailed descriptions of their past experience, explanations of their new jobs, compliments from upper management and quotes from the newly promoted editors about how they view their jobs.

How curious that Holt got none of this treatment. The article didn’t mention what her “elevated” role is to be, whether it will include her current duties or if the role of standards editor itself is being elevated.

Her Tribune bio says that as standards editor, she “works closely with reporters and editors about issues of accuracy, fairness and ethics.”

Too bad that the announcement of her promotion didn’t, in all fairness, give readers the same thorough reporting about her as about the other four. Perhaps an insult was unintentional, but an oversight of this size smacks of a put-down. Of course, someone whose job is to wield a critical red pencil and a sharp eye for mistakes is handicapped in any popularity contest. Or, perhaps she is held responsible for the frequency of errors and the paper didn’t want to raise that question in any description of past performance or future duties.

At a 2005 conference called “Editing the Future: Helping Copy Desks Meet the Challenge of Changing Media,” Holt described how the Tribune in 1995 began focusing on eliminating errors. It carefully tracked mistakes, categorized them and devised staff training to prevent them. Judging from its track record lately (and not just on the weather page), the Trib appears to have lost that focus.

The prevalence of typos, spelling errors and mangled syntax could be a result of the Trib’s squeeze-the-newsroom business model, rather than deficiencies in individual staffers, who probably feel frustrated and discouraged. These kinds of errors are characteristic of a business whose standards have slipped far enough to damage credibility with its readers and its industry.

As Holt wrote in a “Focus on accuracy” essay for that 2005 conference website, “We can never take these basics for granted. They jeopardize our business.”

Won’t somebody please helps them?

From today’s Chicago Tribune weather page:

“Winds start out from the east then gradually shifts southerly and increases…”

Actually, this is an improvement. During the past week, the weather page has featured two to four errors most days.

Let’s recap. Since Jan. 22, the following errors appeared on the weather page:

“Lake-efect snow”

“Pattern shift suggest temperature downturn late next week”

“Water vapor in clouds hold onto and re-radiates heat”

“Percent of possible sunshine in recent days”

“Fifteen-foot drifts stranded 50,000 cars, making it nearly impossible for snow-removal equipment to traverse the street and expressways…”

“High pressure builds across the Great lakes”

“Clouds dominate area skies early followed by periods of sunshine emerge through the day.”

“Windy snow-maker bring weavy snow totals”

 

 

Typos, cloudy grammar remain well above normal

From today’s Chicago Tribune weather page:

Photo from  nickulivieriphotography.com

Photo from
nickulivieriphotography.com

“High pressure builds across the Great lakes”

“Clouds dominate area skies early followed by periods of sunshine emerge through the day.”

“Windy snow-maker bring weavy snow totals”

Does Tom Skilling, the weatherman whose photo adorns the upper right-hand corner of the page every day, ever read it? Perhaps he makes the reasonable assumption, as do many newspaper readers, that a major news organization like the Chicago Tribune would do all it can to ensure accuracy in basic grammar and eliminate typos before publication. The page this day wasn’t an aberration; it’s one of four weather pages in the past six days to be marred by such flaws.

Skilling has a daily column, “Ask Tom,” in which he answers weather questions from readers. It probably isn’t his job to proofread the weather page, but given his prominence on it, he might like an explanation from the page editor about why these sloppy errors keep occurring. If you’d like to know, too, try contacting him at asktomwhy@wgntv.com.