Sunday, April 8, 2007

Editorial: "Easter, a special day around the world"

Oh, do me a favor. The editorial page is not the place for your personal choices in jumpin' juju, those belong over on the Religion page -- or, the way you've written it, maybe Sports. Ack.

Update, 6pm: Think I'm being harsh? Try it from this angle.

The world's 2.1 million Turtlists are rejoicing today as they mark the day they believe a giant turtle rose from the sea, creating the world we live on today.

The other religions of the world and the 16 percent of the world's people who are nonreligious see it as just a story, but what a great story it is. The Great Turtle so loved the world that he took it upon his own back, showing the world the path to enlightenment.

If it is just a story, it's the best ever told, because more than two millennia later, Turtlism is the No. 1 religion in Turtlestan. More than .3 percent of the world's people claim it.

Islam ranks second with .21 percent of Turtlestan's population with 1.3 million. Hinduism is third with .14 percent of the population and 900,000 adherents. Judaism claims .022 percent with 14,000 adherents.

Whatever one's religion, let everyone enjoy his or her major observances. Today is the holiest day for Turtlists, and a great day it is.

Goodman: "New media affecting journalism accuracy"

As assiduous readers may suspect, the sabotage of an Ellen Goodman column in the Courier a few weeks ago touched off the process that led to this blog. Today's column is less egregiously mangled than that one, but there remains a very bad smell in the room.

What the Courier offers us of Goodman's column looks untouched by the editors, matching the WaPo version exactly. That's all good. What we don't see is 376 words, more than half of this 782-word column, that were simply chopped off the end.

Now, go with me for a minute. You're a page editor, and you've got a space to fill that you know won't take more than 300 words. The world is full of 300-word possibilities -- papers need to fill holes of all sizes, and syndicators know that their sales depend on their ability to supply the right products for those holes. But no, you, the Courier page editor, pass over all those 300- to 400-word products and you jump right to Ellen Goodman, whose regular columns are all in the 800-word bracket, more than twice as large as your space. You download it, dump what you can in the hole, slash off the rest and call it good.

Of course, this crude amputation leaves a column that makes no sense, so, being a good person and all, you cap it off with a headline that sort of describes the ragged stump of argument you have left.

Goodman's point was not to slam new media, blogs in particular, or doctors. Those were two examples supporting a much broader argument, captured in the original headline "Pushing Back Against the Clock." Check it out if you'd like to see how your Courier editors are serving you.

I'll put it to you, dear reader: is this simple incompetence, or sabotage?

Talk of the Town: "Gun control to stop crime misses the target"

Warren Rushton believes that he, you and I are all personally threatened by too many people with guns, and he thinks the only way to answer that threat is to have a gun on you, ready to fire. I just don't get why so many people -- including you, Lefty -- don't see the circular logic in this. Even if you believe it's true, it's obvious that the only way out is to do everything we can to break the cycle.

There are many levels of emotion that suck people into the scary world that Mr Rushton inhabits, but the core problem is the self-fulfilling myth that we are all individuals, left to our own devices to survive or perish in a hostile world. In that world the gun is very potent, not in any real sense, but as a symbol of the power we don't feel in ourselves to control our destinies.

I'd never expect to see anything like what I'm talking about from the Courier editors, of course. But it's a step in the right direction that they're willing to admit limits to what even our Wild West society should tolerate, and they stand up for that position in rebuttal. Bravo!

A3: "Accident at Highway 89/Rosser Street injures bicyclist"

The victim in this story (sub req) is a friend of ours, and just to follow up, he's in ICU at John C Lincoln with a closed head injury, a slight fracture in his back and a bad case of road rash. Not nice, but it could have been much worse.

I don't expect the Courier had much time before deadline to do more than take down the police report on this and the page slot is small, so no blame for this story being a bit thin. I would like to see a followup, however.

The northbound pickup truck apparently ran the red light as our boy was legally turning north onto 89. This incident raises issues worthy of analysis. What's it like for non-drivers to get to work in Prescott? We can talk about bike lanes, mass transit, red-light runners, speed on 89, etc. His injuries are not slight but not massive either -- why couldn't YRMC handle him? What are the cumulative costs of medevac to Phoenix for all the patients we ought to be able to treat here? We can talk about the holes in our health-care system. You get the picture.

Update, 1:18pm: Link fixed.

A1: "Suspects in manhunt face felony charges"

Doug Cook gets the byline on what seems to be the edit of Ken Hedler's breathless first draft yesterday. I wonder whether the Courier couldn't have put both of them on it and got something more like this out yesterday.

Every news department wants to get in on breaking stories, that's the real excitement of the game, but you don't want to let your excitement about the information overpower your responsibility to inform.

The quote from the guy across the street -- who "stayed inside" worrying about getting shot -- speaks volumes about how well he thinks the PV cops would be able to keep a lid on things.

Update, 2:50pm: This last comment is not meant to disparage the PVPD, but rather to expand on the mindset of the witness. I'll bet he watches a lot of TV.

A1:"Parks & Rec survey: Wants outweigh willingness to pay"

People want more stuff, and they don't want to raise their own taxes to do it. I think if you look at any other survey like this, you'd see more or less the same result, it's no surprise at all. But by emphasizing this perfectly normal "disconnect," the Courier inserts a point of view. Did you write it that way, Cindy, or did your editor do a little rearranging?

We're almost 400 words into this before we read anything about what the respondents consider most important, which was the primary purpose of the survey. (I was in the "randomly selected" group of people who got the survey, and I responded.) If I read this right, open space came in fifth among about 30 priorities advanced by Parks & Rec. That strikes me as more significant than its placement in the story.

There's another way to interpret the don't-raise-my-taxes result (I wasn't in that group, by the way). Could it be that Prescott residents think they're paying more in taxes than the value they're getting back?

A1: "Easter Egg-Stravaganza"

It's not really Doug Cook's handling of this story, which is about what you'd expect for a cutesy-pie event like this, but I just find the image of a horde of ravening toddlers fighting for candy a little sickening first thing in the morning. Did it really have to go on page one?