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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:

"Today at Princeton YMCA, I looked through your publication

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?’"

That article was based on Nicole Plett’s interview with Joy

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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