Guardian as “King” Maker   Leave a comment

Typos are unpleasant, but acceptable. However, if you’re a journalist and you go to press with a mistyped a word, it had better be your own word and not a quote from the person who granted you an interview that was necessary for your story. It demonstrates a lack of consideration for accurately conveying the interviewees thoughts to print a typo within that person’s quote. By no means do I believe that the writer deliberately made an error or experienced a Freudian slip of the finger, but I’m sure Ben Hassine would appreciate a more careful transposition of her quotations from now on. Typos happen, but I do believe in a journalistic responsibility to quote people as accurately as possible and to reserve the typos for the author’s language.

I’ve been browsing the Guardian, whose portrayal of A.S. President-elect Wafa Ben Hassine has intrigued me. It’s merely a personal opinion, but I do not believe she’s been given a fair shake so far, and I’m quite certain the Guardian has done very little to spin her positively. In a recent article the Guardian detailed how unpopular measures such as a new mandatory meal plan increase are pushed through by shadowy and knavish committees whose meetings and goings on are unreported and without proper accountability. In favor of instituting such reports, The Guardian quotes Ben Hassine:

“We should change the standing goals to say that representatives from different committees have to report back to council every week; if they don’t meet, then they can say ‘We didn’t meet,’” Ben Hassine said. “Additionally, if any big-ticket changes such as increases in rent or increases in dining dollars are being considered, I think the representatives should be required to make some king [sic] of formal report… not just an oral one during council.”

Okay. That first sentence isn’t an easy one for an editor to punctuate, though I’m not sure it’s been done as gracefully as possible. It’s difficult to get a clear sense of what she wants to be done, and perhaps she does struggle with infirm, indefinite language. “Representatives from different committees” makes one wonder which representatives and which committees. Can they send their most junior member to report, “we didn’t meet” and which, if not all, committees constitute “different committees”?

And then there’s “some king [sic] of oral report.” Maybe politicians shouldn’t be quoted as vaguely referring to some kind of anything as a matter of clarity and eloquence. But given that the Guardian used this quote instead of prodding for a crisper one, it would be nice if they could at least correctly quote her. Typos happen- I wouldn’t be surprised if you can find one on this page. Newspapers are under deadline to go to print, and mistakes get missed. But quotes from the A.S. President-elect apparently are important enough only for a spellcheck and not an actual proofread. “King” instead of “kind” won’t have a red squiggly underline in your word processor, but Ben Hassine’s quote appears to not have been worth a thorough double check this time. Kind of her fault for using “kind of” in the first place, or king of the Guardian’s error for not placing a premium value on her suggestions.

To cap it off, after printing that quote, The Guardian notes that “Ben Hassine was serving as an A.S. representative on the HDH Committee when it passed the meal-plan increase.” This is factual reporting, not inserting an opinion directly, but I think we can discern an intention from how the article is organized. Point out problem with HDH Committee meal point increase, quote Ben Hassine on how to fix communication, then mention truthfully that she was on that very committee that has underclassmen paying more for something most of them don’t need. It’s skillful to frame the facts in such a way to produce the desired effect while making no false or questionable assertions. Conveniently placing striking facts adjacently for the reader to synthesize is part of what a journalist does. It’s just king of not too nice.


Posted May 4, 2010 by Wada in Uncategorized

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