Here at my newspaper, I used to play a little game when reading or editing stories from wire services, including the Times' service. Whenever I'd come to a bit of mangled grammar or an ugly, sloppily executed sentence, I'd think, well, this can't be from the Times, and I'd scroll to the top of my computer screen to verify this. Until recently, I was always right.
Then, a few weeks ago, I edited a story by a Times writer who did not know the difference between nominate and appoint. (Think the difference is academic? Not when the story is about presidential nominations subject to Senate confirmation.)
Today there was this, from the Times' Bill Pennington:
"Last weekend he was talked about in entirely different contexts: to note that McIlroy was almost the same age as Woods was when he won his first major..."In fact, Rory McIllroy, who won golf’s U.S. Open on Sunday, is not almost the same age as Woods was when he won the 1997 Masters, he's 10 months older. Sure, you can figure out what the Times meant, but not so long ago that extra step would have been unnecessary. The Times' reporters knew what they meant and the right words to say it, and if they didn't, its copy editors were good enough or given enough time to fix the mistake. No longer.
The Times is still better written than many newspapers, though it's not as good as the Wall Street Journal or the Economist. It's probably also a better source of news than most, so you won't be clueless if you read it. As for me, though, I'll have to find a new game to play at work.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011