Monday, August 3, 2009

Editorial: Gasp! Breathing rests with Senate

The unnamed Courier editor urges readers to help get a cap-and-trade system passed through the Senate, something every other developed economy has done long since and proved worthwhile both environmentally and economically. I sure wouldn't have expected it, but I'll take it, and thanks. But he seems to go out of his way to undermine his objective.

The references to the refinery accident, "brown stuff" and "America's lungs" seem pretty well unrelated to the issue of atmospheric CO2 that cap-and-trade would focus on. Pollution would fall as coal plants phase out, yes, but that's beside the point of the legislation and bound to confuse the reader. The incompetent headline-writer's reference to breathing just aggravates the error.

I gotta wonder whether the editor has even a sliver of a clue what he's talking about. Thanks, editor, but no thanks -- this sort of thing does not help.

Column: Assertions cast religion in bad light

Here's the third op-ed piece I've seen labeled "Column," the first writ by a regular contributor. Does this signify that the editors take George Seaman as seriously as Randall Amster, or is it a demotion for Randall?

Randall attempts to call intolerant, absolutist Xtians on their anti-Xtian ways. But he tries so hard to be nice about it and sidle up to it slowly, I imagine most readers will have moved on before he even mentions his real topic. It's like he's taking the role of Aesop, talking slowly under an olive tree on a lazy afternoon, the reader lolling at his feet waiting for the clever twist that gets to the moral of the story.

You have to hit it harder, Randall. You don't lead a column about religious discourse with a reference to Social Security, it just confuses people. Get to what you mean, state your thesis clearly, then back it up.

If your editor was doing his job, he'd be giving you these tips himself and guiding you, because when the paper reads better, it sells better to readers.

Letter: Post office closure will speed USPS obsolescence

I have to mention this LTE from yesterday, in which the writer opines that forcing everyone in town to rely on the Miller Valley PO will likely lead to career problems for the persons making that decision.

It's all of four sentences long. So why couldn't the headline writer figure out what Mr Johnson was saying? How did we get yet another op-ed headline that says something quite different from what the writer intended? Idiotic.

Election Q&As

Today's is the second in this series, in which the Courier asks all the candidates to write answers to the same question in 65 words or less.

Now I'm not particularly wordy myself, but 65 words seems like an awfully tight restriction if you want the voters to learn anything worthwhile. One might infer that the editors are limiting the candidates for space if Cindy's background preamble to the question didn't take up at least half the story. I also notice that sometimes she includes candidate quotes up there too. So we have the form of a level playing field without the substance of allowing every candidate equal and sufficient space to answer the question.

I know the editors probably think they're making fair rules for these things. I just wish they would think through what they're doing, so that the result will be better for the voters and the paper. It's this sort of incompetence that makes people roll their eyes whenever you mention the Courier.

Update, Tuesday 3:30pm: I had the feeling that the answers given in the Courier sounded an awful lot like answers at the candidate forum last week, so I asked my neighbor Paul Katan about the Courier's process. He told me that his answers are indeed new and written entirely by him for this series, so Cindy was not cribbing from the forum recording.

He mentioned that part of his answer to the economy question was left out of the paper, and he complained. I see on checking the Web version of the story that the editor has gone back in to add the omitted section in bold, with a note that the omission was a mistake. I think this may be the first online correction I've seen.