Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the June 12, 2002 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Between the Lines
As they strive to get the facts right, editors experience
a certain tension. Even when they do get the facts and quote sources
correctly, some reader may still object to the message. The editor,
as the messenger, gets caught in the crossfire.
Last week we had just such a story, on Turkey, and we received this
letter from Plainsboro resident Alexander Khrabov:
and have read an article about Turkey (U.S. 1., June 12). I noticed
some omissions: (1.) the genocide of Armenians of 1915-’16, widely
considered as a pre-cursor for the Holocaust, for quite serious reasons;
(2.) the ongoing policy of ethnic cleansing and discrimination toward
the Kurdish minority. And what’s with calling Turkey a `democracy?’"
Stocke, a world traveler who would be speaking at Barnes and Noble
this week about her travels to and impressions of Turkey. We knew
about the history of the Armenians’ treatment at the hands of the
Turks, but maybe we should have been more wary of the quotation offered
by Stocke that "people should particularly know about Turkey because
. . it’s an ally of America, a NATO member, a secular Moslem republic,
that could provide a model for other emerging republics."
If Alexander Khrabov’s take on Turkey is correct, then perhaps we
should have challenged Stocke’s upbeat description of Turkey as a
cultural crossroads where "you can do it all." We put in a
call to Stocke for this column, but got through only to a message
machine. It’s enough to turn an editor’s hair gray.
But reader response is not the only source of job-related stress for
an editor. More often than you might suspect, the editor manages to
inadvertently upset one of his or her own writers. That scenario occurred
in the very same issue. The headline on the cover read "Elements
of Style: Nick Hilton helps men dress for success" and drew no
complaint. But the headline on the inside, written by Richard K. Rein
(not known for his sartorial excellence), read "For the Man Who
Is a Slob: Just in time for Father’s Day, a new men’s clothier."
The writer sent Rein this comment: "Just as an attractive window
display invites customers into a store, an interesting headline leads
readers into a story. The reverse is true as well. The headline for
the article on Nick Hilton made me want to stop reading. It’s mean-spirited
and reflects poorly on all involved. It ridicules Mr. Hilton as the
subject, denigrates me as the writer, and portrays the publication
as less than first-rate."
When presented with this, Rein responded yes, the headline might have
been more dignified, but that he had taken it from the snappy quotation
in the very first paragraph of the writer’s story: "So many wives
come in and say `My husband is a slob. Can you help?’"
No wonder some editors are subject to more than just gray hair. For
an account of Rein’s own recent journey into the world of cardiac
care, please turn to page 11. And until we all gather together again
next week, let’s eat our fruits and vegetables, get some exercise,
and stay cool.
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