Tag Archives: WHAM

Don’t reporters check for errors before they hit “publish”?

There has been some discussion among some of my writing pals this week about the protests in Egypt and journalists, how reporters insert themselves into stories and where the line is between reporting and making the news. Case in point: NBC’s Lester Holt and his camera crew trying to battle an unruly crowd in Egypt to make their way to the apartment of 76 year old Mary Thornberry and save her from certain doom.

It’s not just reporters trying to make news. Another thing that I’ve also noticed is that in the attempt to get the news out before anyone else, online writing has gotten bad. Really bad.

I’m not talking about casual bloggers. I’m taking reporters for actual news organizations who seem to forget that online writing is still writing. Take this story from 13 WHAm TV:

Rochester, N.Y.–Children Awaiting Parents is a locally based non-profit trying to find homes for older children in need of families.
This past Wednesday, the group received a big boost from Hollywood.
Roughly 200 celebrities such as Hilary Swank held raise funds for adoption.
“We’re a national organization. We’ve been talking about this for 38 years, but to have someone
like Hilary Swank and Leigh Anne Tuohy host this event for us, it made all the difference. People are talking about it and that’s the key,” said CAP Executive Director Mark Soule.
Tuohy and her family adopted an African American teenager named Michael Oher and became the inspiration for
the Michael Lewis book, and later movie called “The Blind Side.”
Roughly $10,000 was raised at Wednesday’s gala according to Soule.

That’s the actual story, typos, paragraphs and all, just so you don’t think I’m eliminating anything. What event? Where was it?  How did Hillary Swank become connected to Children Awaiting Parents? Who else was there?

And what about proofing? I know I was in college a million years ago, but after “Children Awaiting Parents” shouldn’t there be (CAP) so that when it’s referenced that way later readers understand? And there’s a quirky typo an edior should have caught: “Hilary Swank held raise funds for adoption”.

Understand that I’m not knocking the reporter. He’s actually a great reporter. And I’m notorious for leaving out words and paragraphs when I write. That’s why I have an editor for my paid writing. On this blog? It’s just me and the cat on the keyboard. If I haven’t had enough tea, I might make the same mistakes.

But we’re not talking about some blogger in her pajamas. This is an actual, legitimate news outlet, one of the top in Rochester, one that in another story said about an accident: “It happened around 8:30 p.m. Firday”.

Firday? I forget. Does that come after Thrusday?

The problem is that news outlets are in such a hurry to get the news out there that they forget about details, clarity, editing, as if the facts matter less than the speed with which those facts go out around the world.

Or in Lester Holt’s case, making sure the cameras are there to record his journalistic heroics – or not.

The power goes out but the lights go on

I woke up this morning to a lovely winter surprise: no power.

I had been up around 4:00 am to let the dogs out, so when I got up at 7:45 am I knew the power had only been out a few hours. The temperature in the house was 58 degrees. Outside? Nine degrees.

My first thought when I realized there was no power: I NEED A CUP OF TEA. Thank goodness for camping equipment. I keep the small propane camp stove handy in the basement for just such occasions. I also found the emergency radio, which operates on batteries and also one of those wind up charging things. So I could tune in to WHAM and hear the news.

My second thought: when was the power coming back on? I called RGE’s automated outage line; expected outage to be fixed at 6:30 am. That was an hour before I got up, so I knew the power could come back on any time.

Or not. We have random outages in our neighborhood all the time. The transformer on Marsh Rd blows. Someone drives into a lightpole. The wind changes direction. Never really any good explanation. Sometimes the outage lasts all day. Sometimes a few hours. Sometimes they say it’ll be back on in an hour, and it’s half a day later when they’ve finally figured out the problem.

My third thought: it’s amazing how much we rely on electricity. No lights, no heat, no stove. I had my telephone and some battery left on my laptop, but no internet service. (Conversely, if I had cable internet and phone, I’d have internet access but no telephone.) I could shower (gas hot water heater) but not dry my hair. Even during daylight, there are places in the house where I needed a flashlight to see.

You need a power outage once in a while to remind you how lucky we are to live in America. Despite the political divide, America is still the greatest place on earth, a bounty of comforts. There are millions of people around the world who don’t have the luxury of electricity and fresh water or telephones or books or laptops or even tea bags. Those may not sound like big deals, but try living without them for a while.

A power outage also makes you think about how you’d function – or even survive – if for some reason things took a turn in America and electricity, fuel, food, heat and other comforts were suddenly not available. What if transportation systems were interrupted and food couldn’t get from California to New  York, or vice versa, or from Chile or Mexico or China or any of the other places from which we import food? No fresh vegetables or fruit? No meat, in some cases? What if gas was rationed or too expensive to purchase? When the power goes out, could you run a generator? How would you heat your home? Keep food fresh? See in the dark? Dry your hair?

It doesn’t take political unrest or economic collapse to make those things possible. The weather we’ve had this winter is enough to show us that floods, earthquakes, forest fires and other environmental emergencies could interrupt transportation, affect farming, impact prices.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist. It’s just that when the power goes out you start to think about those things – or at least think about them more than usual. Because we deal with an outage at least once a winter and once a summer, we’ve prepared a few back ups. Emergency radio, camp stove and small propane canisters, flashlights, chickens with eggs.

But most important to have: a compassion for people who live without those amenities every day.