Outsourcing the News: A Sad Day for Journalism

I remember when I was studying journalism at the University of Southern California, the editors of the Los Angeles Times would take turns coming over as guest lecturers. The foreign bureau editor, whose name slips me, voiced supreme pride that his newspaper was vigorously staffing every major capital in the world with its own people.

Not anymore. Reality (lack of advertising dollars and huge debt) has caught up to the once-proud (but now I would say haughty) Los Angeles Times.

The parent Tribune Company, according to the Wall Street Journal, is busy cutting a deal with the Washington Post to pay them for all foreign AND national news coverage. All I can say is, "Wow!" That’s going to cost a lot of people at the Times and the Chicago Tribune their livelihoods. Maybe the senior people can bump those below them, but still, "There will be blood," to borrow a movie title.

As I said in my title, this is a sad day for American journalism.

(The Tribune papers are not alone. The New York Daily News has signed onto a service called GlobalPost that uses PART-TIME foreign correspondents who already live in the capitals.)

‘Ginormous’ Now a Word: Give Me a Break

The Bubble Economy (i.e., Dot Com, Housing, Oil) has found a new home–in the English language.

A group called the Global Language Monitor is busily adding words to the English tongue at a rapid pace, something like one new word every 98 minutes.

Now, if you think about it, if you’re adding one new word to any language every hour and a half, you’re just playing games. Witness one of its latest English additions–ginormous. It sounds cute, but it’s not English–it’s texting or BSing.

Anyway, the combined BS coming out of the ersatz Global Language Monitor has even fooled–Bernie Madoff style–publications as otherwise prestigious as The Economist and The Christian Science Monitor into predicting that 2009 will usher in the English language’s one millionth word.

My take? More than 900,000 of those words (maybe more like 970,000) are ridiculous slang and weird constructs. If I grunt, is that a word? Probably, according to the Global Language Monitor.

It’s Been a Great Year for Schadenfreude

English is mostly a Germanic language with some French thrown in owing to the Norman (French) Conquest of England, so it’s a great time to revive and revel in a German word not used that often but particularly a propos this year–schadenfreude.

Roughly translated, schadenfreude means "joy over other people’s suffering and losses."

With the circle of fat-cat millionaires and billionaires now being brought down singlehandedly by Bernie Madoff and his $50-billion Wall Street  Ponzi scheme, we can all take some delight in seeing others get what’s due them. If we ourselves have suffered losses this year (raise your hand to join mine if you have), l’affaire Madoff is just what the doctor ordered.

Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell tells a great fable that cuts to the heart of schadenfreude–and human nature.

Two Russian peasants, one named Ivan and one Boris, live a rough-and-tumble existence in the forest, but Boris (or Ivan, I can’t recall who) has a goal and Ivan has nothing.

One day Ivan stumbles upon a genie in the forest who offers to grant him one wish but one wish only. So what does Ivan ask for?

"Make Boris’s goat die."

Learning a Myriad of Myriad New Things Daily

I remember back in high school being excoriated by an English teacher who said, in effect, "You can’t say a myriad of. Myriad is an adjective."

So, blindly, I believed that for the next several decades until…today.

I finally looked it up. Turns out myriad started out as a noun meaning "innumerable" or literally "10,000" (once considered an "innumerable" sum).

Then in the 19th century, Samuel Taylor Coleridge helped convert it into an adjective when he wrote the phrase, "Myriad of myriad lives."

Not sure what that meant or referred to, but as a result, we now have myriad as both noun and adjective to abuse.

Department of Eerie Acronyms: PIK and DCOH

My day gig these days has me doing research on labor law and employment issues, and today I came across a nonprofit hospital posting from North Carolina, which announced that new acronyms were being added to hospital jargon during our current economic difficulties.

The author mentioned two:  PIK, or payment in kind, which refers to paying one’s bills with something other than money, and DCOH, or days’ cash on hand–a measure of how long one can survive.

The second one is truly scary, but I was calculating that for myself up until I landed this recent gig a month ago.

Come next year, I may be back to counting DCOH.

Department of Let’s Call a Spade a Spade

Following yesterday’s post about phrases, I guess I should’ve looked up "calling a spade a spade" before using it, but I think it conveys what I want.

The subject is the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the PC foxtrot that most of the media used to report about it.  Fearful of linking the murderous rampage to Muslims or Islam, many media labeled the terrorists by various euphemisms, for instance, "gunmen," "militants," "practitioners" and then this–"teenage gunmen," as used in this sentence from the newspaper The Australian: "An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok."

I think they did a bit more than running amok.  They obviously set out on a preplanned and premeditated terrorist assault to try to bring the financial capital of India to a halt, just as al Qaeda operatives did in 2001 to New York.

The Associated Press even felt sorry that Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed being linked to their religion."

What next, tea with Obama at Camp David where he’ll apologize of all of us mean-spirited and prejudiced Americans, him excluded, of course?

I owe this all to Mark Steyn and his syndicated column, which you can read here.

Rosie O’Donnell Reaches New Low in English Usage

I stumbled upon a Web effort by MSN today to discover and name the "11 Lamest Blogs."  I was actually hoping to be named on the list, so I could get some zillions of vistors.  Alas, I didn’t make it, but you all know how lame I am.  LOL.

Someone whom Donald Trump detests (me too!) did make the list, however, and she’s none other than acerbic (read: bitchy) TV/movie/talk show/radio failure Rosie O’Donnell.

MSN gigs her for her absolutely lame usage of English, in which nothing is capitalized or punctuated (read the assessment).  However, I have a bigger beef.  I just went to her Rosie.com site and couldn’t even stay on her home page for more than a second before it lurched me over to some stupid fund-raising effort called "Rosie’s Broadway Kids."

Maybe Rosie realized how pathetic her site is and decided instead to use her name to raise money.  No doubt, 90 percent of funds raised will go to Ms. O’Donnell for administrative costs, but the kids might get a nickel here and a dime there.

READ ‘TOP ELEVEN LAMEST BLOGS."

Bring Back the Copyeditors, Part II

Back when I was a cub reporter and every kid had to walk five miles in the snow to go to school in a little red shack at the far end of the earth, copyeditors reigned supreme at newspapers, and there’s no way I could’ve gotten away with what T.J. Simes did Saturday in the Los Angeles Times.

Simers, a sarcastic (he would no doubt prefer sardonic) sports columnist, was ripping apart the UCLA Bruins football team and their quarterback, Kevin Craft, when he wrote:

And so watching Kevin Craft play quarterback for the Bruins on Friday night, while amusing in its oddity and folly, it became painful to watch.

Granted, this was only in the print edition, and someone corrected it online, but note that Simers has two subjects for one verb.  The first–and the actually intended–subject is watching, which is a gerund (verb turned into a noun).  The second subject is it, which immediately precedes the verb became.  The inclusion of it just renders the sentence awakward, grammatically incorrect and harder to understand.

The fact, however, that someone caught the error means that the column was probably rushed to print to make the deadline, but still, no excuses, folks.

(I wonder if some copyeditor actually added the it and then someone, perhaps Simers, caught it and had it corrected online.  That would be even worse!)

If I Was a Rich Man…

…I’d write more posts for this blog and I’d correct that subjunctive clause to its proper form: "If I were a rich man…."

Seeing as how I’m nowhere near rich, I have to grovel like everyone else to make a few bucks and keep the bankruptcy court at bay as long as I can.

When I applied for my latest writing gig, one of the interviewers asked me my pet peeve with misused English, and I answered "the subjunctive mood," which is clearly evident in the song, "If I Was a Rich Man," and in almost everyone’s everyday English when discussing conditional matters in an if construction.

However, I’d also have to rank verb coordination right there with the subjunctive.

For instance, look at this sentence:

"Neither he nor I are happy about this."

Anything wrong here?

Yes, indeed, there is.  In a neither/nor or either/or construction, there are two subjects, and sometimes one is singular and one is plural, or one is third person and one is first person, as in this example.

Since you can have only one verb in  neither/nor, either/or sentence, which of the two subjects determines the verb?  English rules dictate that the second subject determines the verb form.  Therefore, the above sentence should read:

"Neither he nor I am happy about this."

Sounds strange, huh?  But just like the people who predicted our current economic meltdown a year ago were considered strange, this proper usage is far from strange but absolutely spot on.