Friday, March 10, 2006

Keeping the red pencil still...

Several days ago I wrote about a variety of situations where poorly constructed prose might come to appear in the daily paper and about how it's possible to manipulate it to subtly create certain impressions. Today's column by Glenda Overstreet illustrates that I omitted at least one relevant scenario.

It is possible that someone without the skills to express him or herself clearly with written English could be offered a position as a regular columnist for a newspaper. I find that very disturbing on a number of levels.

I can understand printing a letter to the editor or a quote that wouldn't pass muster in a stack of middle-school homework assignments. What I can't endorse is giving a byline to someone without the skills necessary to produce the work.

I have nothing against Ms. Overstreet and I applaud the notion of including the president of the local branch of the NAACP on the roster of columnists. It's inclusive and provides an opportunity for the readers of the Capital-Journal to benefit from views they might otherwise not. But her struggles with setting her views down undermine her ability to get them across.

If the newsroom management haven't got the spine to insist on helping her with a strong editorial hand, they're doing her no favors. The "Norm Crosby" malapropism and the horrid grammar do not serve her intentions at all. These things needlessly add confusion, frustration and dismissal to the process of digesting her work. It shouldn't be that difficult to read a newspaper and in my opinion she needs editorial assistance or replacement.



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