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Those who can’t, teach

The Poynter Institute — which, as “a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders,” brings us the wisdom of such luminaries as Roy Peter Clark* and Al Tomkins,** — provides a textbook example of less-than-best practices in its recent report on NBC’s decision to close the hyperlocal-news project EveryBlock.

MediaWire, Poynter’s comparatively lame replacement for Jim Romenesko’s media blog, corresponded with Vivian Schiller, an NBC functionary. EveryBlock “wasn’t a strategic fit with our growth strategy and — like most hyperlocal businesses — was struggling with the business model,” MediaWire quoted her as saying, without explaining what she might have meant or why NBC bought EveryBlock in the first place.

Then, Jeff Sonderman writes:

I asked Schiller about the questions many are raising online — why not turn over EveryBlock to another operator or give supporters a chance to keep it going?

Keep Calm but Answer the Question Good question, Jeff.

 She answered: “I understand that the EveryBlock community is disappointed. So are we. We looked at various options to keep this going, but none of them were viable. It was a tough call to make.”

That was it. If Jeff emailed Vivian back and asked her to please answer the damn question, he didn’t tell us about it.

No one can force anyone to answer a question, of course. But that doesn’t mean you should run a non-answer, especially without calling bullshit.

Editor! Stat! If you don’t challenge this stuff, who will?

(Aside: Everything I know about EveryBlock I learned in the past week, but I can  conclude that it didn’t know how to handle “social media.”)

 

* My view of Clark may be surmised by reading the top of a recent “how to” on the Poynter site.

** Tomkins used to write “Al”’s Morning Meeting, which Testy Copy Editors cheerfully derided for what seemed like years. I doubt that we had anything to do with the Morning Meeting’s demise.

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“I don’t think Microsoft is going to run Dell at any time or have a dispositive say in what Dell does,” said one source familiar with Microsoft’s thinking, who asked not to be named. (Reuters)

“[Michael Froman] is inclined to retain his White House portfolio,” said one source familiar with his thinking. (Reuters again)

First, companies don’t think. Second, only one “source” is familiar with Michael Froman’s thinking, which kind of blows away the anonymity thing. (If the “source” isn’t Froman, the quote is a lie.) “That’s acceptable shorthand,” you protest? No, it’s lazy, misleading and totally unacceptable.

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“Every day, you get a different freshness and taste for my gourmet palette. It’s really a nice surprise every day,” said [Joe] Snowberger. (WTLV/WJXX)

Does this qualify as a “style tip?” No. Choosing the wrong word is a bonehead mistake that can be avoided by being well-read or by consulting a dictionary — which, despite the apparent aspirations of AP, @apstylebook is not. In recent years, AP has clogged the Stylebook with entries like this, presumably to pump up sales with each annual edition. That has made the book bloated, cumbersome and increasingly irrelevant. There. I said it.

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Really rich: The false title “billionaire” has lost its oomph, and yet there are no trillionaires yet as far as we know.  Luckily there’s another word available: “zillionaire.” Webster’s New World, which sniffs “informal,” defines a zillionaire as “a person thought to have wealth so great it cannot be measured.” Although “zillionaires” looks like it belongs in a cartoon, it’s the perfect word for describing, say, Scrooge McDuck or Warren Buffett. Too jocular? Save your gravitas for the important stuff, like everything else I write about here.

 

In Best Practices, Career tips, Featured.

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