Taking a cheap shot, talking dirty at the Star

Which is more offensive: to use a four-letter word
or to put a man’s suicide on TV news?

A clipping from the Star’s sports page is causing tongues to wag on Facebook, with the cluck-clucking of moral indignation: subs at the Star were accused of being asleep on the job with an implied criticism that coarse language does not belong in a newspaper, and that stories about sex should remain off the front pages (the Alvin and Vivian case).

Honesty or stupidity? (Facebook photo by a broadcasting journalist)

That’s a cheap shot at a journalistic decision, a knee-jerk reaction typical of many petty criticisms of the press. The suggestion that the sub-editor was asleep on the job is a criticism that could well be applied to journalists at any other newspaper or broadcasting newsroom for the gibberish that is often turned out. Too many journalists do little more than give wire service copy a cursory glance, because it is supposedly “clean”, a lesson they learned from their superiors and mindlessly passed along.
Continue reading


Elements of Style, the rap version [video]

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have had formal journalism training, you might have come across mention of The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White. It’s a standard text in US j-schools, taken with the AP Manual of Style as the equivalent of the word of god. But enough of the new aristocracy of the petit bourgeois.

Yobs like us, who once struggled mightily with the remains of Standard Malaysian English, might like a taste of how the new Standard Transatlantic Malaysian is sweeping away what’s left of Ridout’s Irregulars together with the cobwebs.

via Jon Winokur | » Strunk & White | » Ye actual Elementary

It’s the new dialectical materialism.

Thank you very much.
Not at all.
Chin Chin.

Arrogance in editing turns Martin Luther King into ‘an arrogant twit’

Right at the start of the words at issue, he says, “if.” If  you want to make me a drum major, then say I was a drum major for justice. An “if” clause is an extraordinarily bad thing to leave out of a quote.
Rachel Manteuffel
Washington Post

“The word ‘if’ suggests that . . . he’s not sure of who he was. . . . We have the historical perspective. We can say emphatically he was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”
Ed Jackson Jr.
executive architect
Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial

…some unknown editor — in life, as in art, the villain is so often an editor — made a dreadful cut.
Rachel Manteuffel

Journalists, especially sub-editors, can draw a lesson on arrogance in editing — and how not to handle a quotation — from a controversy over a 10m-tall statue of Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader whose birthday is celebrated in the US today.

A full quotation, an extract from a speech by King in 1968, had been approved. But the architect and sculptor decided to shorten it and placed a paraphrased version on the right side of the 10m-tall statue.

When criticised, they stood by their story. No change, they said. Anyway it won’t fit. No space. Anyway it sounds better this way. It’s brief. It’s to the point. They just fell short of saying that Martin Luther King should have said it they way they wrote it.

A painfully familiar example of editorial arrogance at work, if it was heard in a newsroom. They decided to sub the copy after it had been officially cleared. They used a paraphrase in place of an actual quotation, to be “brief and succint”. Then they said their version is better.

After months of controversy, the US goverment has ordered a change. The park service has 30 days to come up with a better alternative, after consulting everyone concerned.

The statue itself is quite disturbing. King is shown emerging out of stone, a somewhat Sphinx-like and rigid monumental figure. It’s also reminiscent of heroic statues or portraits of Mao Tse-tung, with his posture of crossed arms, somewhere in Tien An Men or the Great Hall. Not quite the image of a god-fearing preacher who stood for racial equality and an end to discrimination.

Continue reading

Expert advice on journalism, by KJi the Dear Leader

Like this on Facebook Share on Facebook

Unknown to many people in the outside world, Kim Jong-il, the dearly departed Dear Leader of North Korea, was an expert on journalism, one of the many subjects he was reputed to command (besides North Koreans of course).

Long before he succeeeded his father as the guiding light of North Korea, he was already inspiring the country’s journalists to greater heights, working hard at…

“plac[ing] the pressman at the zenith of happiness and glory” and “constantly giving them meticulous guidance in spite of the heavy pressure of the task of leading the revolution and construction.”

His standing as a the great journalism expert is documented in a 170-page book, The Great Teacher of Journalists, published in English in Pyongyang in 1983 (eleven years before Kim became the Dear Leader) by the government’s Foreign Languages Publishing House, reports Liz Cox Barrett in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Always stick to your subject

You should not leave the great leader when you cover functions held in his presence.

Only then will you be able to impressively cover his on-the-spot guidance, and also write good articles.

Get out there

‘Comrade journalist, you must see things on the spot before you write your articles. Otherwise you may talk big,’ advised the Dear Leader.
Continue reading

On headline writing – by computer geeks

At the Slashdot.org forum, where computer geeks gather:

Malaysia Mulls Compulsory Registration of Tech Workers

“Mulls” is an awkward verb that only gained a foothold because newspaper headline writers had to meet a size limit. On Slashdot, which has a huge amount of space for headline title, it should never be used – instead replaced with words like “Considers”.
by cshay (79326) on Friday December 09, @07:52PM (#38321590)

Maybe your screen is wide, but what about phones consuming the RSS feed?
Besides, people only read the first 11 characters [useit.com], so short is sweet [useit.com]. Now, mulls may not be the best word in this particular situation, but to rule it out in all situations is silly.
by greenreaper (205818) on Friday December 09, @07:58PM (#38321654)

“Mull” is more subtle than consider and has a secondary meaning implying “to screw up” or “to fail”. And, since it’s alliterative with Malaysia, it’s a very appropriate use for this story’s headline.
by haruchai (17472) on Friday December 09, @08:01PM (#38321680)

Or they liked the alliteration.
Although “Malaysia Mulls Mandatory Registration” would’ve been better.
by gman003 (1693318) on Friday December 09, @08:15PM (#38321778)

Thank you. It actually occurred to me, but by then i had already hit submit.
by Viceice (462967) on Friday December 09, @09:56PM (#38322374)

The plain truth about editors

So you want to write for a living?

Erna Mahyuni
On “writers” and their relationship to editors

Editors are mean, sadistic people. That’s why they’re editors — if you can survive the ragging they’ll give you, you can survive anywhere. Some editors are gentler with their critiques but most prefer bluntness. Your mother may think your copy is genius but if it isn’t fit to show your editor, it isn’t fit to publish. If your ego matters more to you than being good at your job, go into real estate. Donald Trump’s just the kind of man you’d like to emulate.
Continue reading

Words to the wise, stylishly

Brilliant! Controversial! And not a vogue word in sight!

band names

Bands take a plural verb: Snow Patrol are overrated, the Young Radicals’ You Get What You Give was the best single of all time, etc.

“big society”

described by Simon Hoggart as “surely the vaguest slogan ever coined by a political leader. Nobody knows what it means.” Until they do, keep it in quotation marks

A similar injunction should apply to the verbal diarrhoea of MBA-speak suffered by the Prime Minister’s Department. Nobody knows what they mean, either. (And I suspect neither do they, but they’re not telling.) But, alas, such common-sensical admonitions are wasted upon the social-climbing classes of Our Masters’ Voices otherwise known sarcastically as the Malaysian mass media.


“a word applied indiscriminately by the Guardian to anything new, no matter how ordinary” (tweet from a reader)

A word applied indiscriminately by ambitious Malaysian corporate-climbing editors to anything different (or pirated) no matter how drab.


is overused, typically to show that the writer disapproves of something (“the government’s controversial free schools scheme”); like “famous”, it can be safely removed from news stories to allow readers to make up their own minds

Wasted advice for Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Chronicle and Free Malaysia Today. In the brave new world of new media, hyperbole is everything.

curate’s egg

Oh never mind, sonny, it was well before your time.


a language spoken in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Siberia. Note that it has no more words for snow than English does for rain. The people are Inuit (singular Inuk), not Eskimos

exclamation marks

Do not use! (As Scott Fitzgerald said, it is like laughing at your own jokes)

faith schools

may be called religious schools without fear of divine retribution

That’s almost a guarantee it’s about to gain wide currency among Our Masters’ Voices


as long as complete and finish survive, and human beings with breath in their bodies to utter them, there will be no need for this word


Edited extract from
» Guardian Style
the style guide of The Guardian, a new edition of which is published this week.

Man with pen makes head with little sense

World media notes

There’s actually a term for this kind of head though often it’s just called a cock-up.
» Details
Maybe Sam Cheong knows where to find the kind of instrument the kid used.

Continue reading

Is Najib a bigger story than corruption?


What they buried in the news reports

  • 61% are not satisfied with the government’s efforts to fight corruption
  • 57% do not believe in the government’s efforts to fight crime
  • 91% are aware of the Aminulrasyid shooting case in Shah Alam
  • 58% are not satisfied with the way the police are handling the case
  • 53% chose corruption above inflation, foreign investment and the environment as the No 1 issue to be tackled
  • 76% believe the best company should get the government contract, regardless of race
  • 72% think bumiputra companies should compete for government contracts
  • 66% think some contracts should be reserved and bumiputra companies to compete among them for the jobs
  • 45% disagree and 46% agree that the government is spending public money prudently

Continue reading

Bottoms up on what Umno members think

• 52% of Umno members say there is corruption in the government

• 47% say vote-buying among Umno office-bearers is a problem

• 33% say Umno doesn’t take the public’s views seriously

• 13% say Umno is too Malay-centric

• 83% say Umno should be for all Malaysians, not just Malays only

And for a perverse contradiction, how about these two points, left out by the NST:

• 70% felt Malay rights were threatened by other ethnic groups

• Only 2% supported ending cronyism and nepotism

All that came from Merdeka Centre’s opinion poll of Umno members at the party general assembly in November.

What you got instead, from the NotStraitsTimes (top) and the Malaysian Insider (above) on the last day of the year, amidst hoopla about the Noughties, was a lot of hoopla about the 1Najib Tun Razak.

The hagiographic treatment, of how highly Umno members rate the 1Najib Tun Razak, is understandable for the NotStraitsTimes living up faithfully if somewhat sheepishly to its role as Pyongyang Gazette West — or His Master’s Voice (with apologies to EMI).

But it came off strangely sounding somewhat stilted in the Insider.

Perhaps they were trying to make up for pointing out a negative positive the last time out when Rocky flailed them for not choosing to highlight a positive negative. (Or was that the other way round?) Maybe trying out a little insurance to prop up the devil you know against the devil you don’t in Muhyiddin (“For Race, Religion and Nation”) Yassin.

But since both papers wrote similar-sounding stories on the same poll, it only remains to point out as some editors sometimes will — a tiresome lot aren’t they all — that the bloody story’s buried in the bloody bottom la.

Or in the last four pars. Take your pick, really.

For that’s where those bullet points above were taken. From the bottom up, which is where you’ll find them in the NotStraitsTimes on the last day of the ninth year of the first decade of the third millenium.

Naughty Noughty.

© 2009 uppercaise