Monday, August 10, 2009

Why newspapers are dying

Sure, there are lots of reasons: Craigslist killed the classifieds; struggling automakers and department stores aren't buying full-page ads like they used to; dwindling circulation and advertising rates are trapped in a self-perpetuating death spiral; electronic reporting has compromised newspapers' primacy; people have come to expect free news delivery online; readers gave up after thirty years of waiting for Ziggy to become funny; etc.

But let's simplify things and blame Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Take, for example, his sloppily edited full-page column of October 27, 2008, which I set aside for ridicule at the time, forgot about, and just rediscovered. There are no fewer than four errors on that one page of newsprint:

1. The main headline reads, "Noise! Noise! Noise! The closer the presidential election draws, the louder the claims and counterclaims grow, until you just can't stand anymore"

They meant "any more" as in "any more noise." "Anymore," one word, means any longer or from now on. They could also have said "until you just can't stand it anymore."

Or maybe they meant the crushing weight of all the claims and counterclaims makes it impossible to stay on your feet.

2. A photo caption reads, "Who says their are no good new love songs? 'Falling Slowly' from the film 'Once' (above) won an Academy Award." Aside from the fact that no one is saying there are no good new love songs, I've been to Oakland and there's no their they're.

3. Steinberg refers to a rock band as "the Handsome family", then in the next paragraph names the band as they're actually known, "the Handsome Family."

4. Neil demonstrates his good taste by praising the music of the Magnetic Fields but compromises his critical authority by calling the band's frontman "Stephen Merritt." The singer spells his name Stephin.

Nobody's perfect, and I'm sorry to nitpick, but come on. I've been writing this blog for almost two years and I invite anyone to try to find four typos or grammatical errors in the whole thing. Neil's got four of them on one page.

And yes, I know there's an editorial staff that edits or even writes the headlines and captions and is responsible for copy editing throughout, but the buck stops at the guy whose name is in big capital letters at the top of the page. He gets the glory so he takes the blame.

Four errors on one page. Who'd pay for that?

Congratulations, Neil Steinberg. You've destroyed the newspaper industry.

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