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Forcing the issue

ONE day, three consecutive pages of The Times published four different pieces in which someone was allegedly "forced" to carry out an act.  None of the reports, however, revealed any degree of compulsion, other than one felt by the writer to invest the story with additional drama.  Why do newspapers such as The Times, which should be striving to present their reports with authority and reliability, not content themselves with a presentation of the unvarnished facts?  In the past few hours, I have read of individuals who were "forced" (a) to enter a jar of strawberry jam for judging at a country show; (b) buy two bags of onions; (c) phone the AA to request the attendance of a patrolman to change a wheel.

This piece of nonsense in The Times illustrates the point wonderfully.  First the newspaper states that primary care trusts "have been forced" to hire private companies, but in the next sentence, it states that their employment was an "option".



A sense of place

I am always torn between amusement and frustration when confronted by the consequences of national newspaper reporters attempting to deal with the tricky problem of British geography north of Watford Gap. I have just read in The Times, for example, a reference to "Creswell Junior School, in Worksop, Derbyshire". 

Creswell is not in Worksop and Worksop is not in Derbyshire.

In the same issue, Blencathra, one of the Lake District's best-known heights, is referenced as "Blenacartha".

Where do they find 'em?

(I once, fortunately, intercepted a piece in which a local newspaper sub-editor had attempted to help her readers by referring to a Hampshire town as "Aldershot, London".)

Take a look at the car's number plate, then check the caption and report.

It's lucky that The Times reporter wasn't the witness who spotted the car, as the case might not have come to court.



AN example of a writer regurgitating jargon without thinking.

"Affordable" has become a bureaucrat's code word for homes offered for rent to low-income tenants. In this context, however, in a feature written for a wider readership. it is a nonsense.  The rest of the flats, by implication, are unaffordable.

At weekends, The Times regularly publishes features that are notable for their lack of authoritative content and their naive composition, typically by people with given names such as Arabella and Fiona.  Is it possible that the newspaper is economising by assigning unpaid Sloaney interns to produce editorial padding?

Clerical error

THE headline and introduction claim that the clergyman is a vicar, but the second sentence states that he is the rector.  Contrary to the beliefs of the reporter, the sub-editor who wrote the headline, and assorted executives who approved the content of the page, vicar is not a generic term for a priest. It is a specific appointment, as is rector. This should be regarded as a matter of basic essential general knowledge for members of the editorial department of any newspaper.  At least the reporter seems to be aware that "Rev" is an adjective, and at the end of the story, the clergyman is correctly identified as "Mr Waters" and not, as is so often seen "the Rev Waters".




Marking time


SURPRISINGLY, errors of usage and grammar frequently appear on the letters page of The Times, an area in which one would have expected the newspaper to take particular pride in its standard of editing. The ones illustrated are among the most common.  In the first, second and fourth instances (above left and centre, and left) a question mark has been wrongly inserted after a statement, while in the third (above right) the mark has been omitted after a question.

The example (left) from The Times achieves the distinction of committing the same error in consecutive sentences, with two statements each acquiring a question mark.  During the same week, I also read the Daily Telegraph's letters page each day, and found it to be impeccably edited.  I did wonder if The Times, as a member of Rupert Murdoch's News International empire, might be giving shifts to subs from its sister publication, The Sun.


Accents off to a T

AN ACUTE error is to be found in the final line.






To be fair to The Times, I'll include an article by the excellent Oliver Kamm, which saves a delicious payoff to the very end.

Just in case the article in question should disappear from the Telegraph website, here is the evidence.




One might assume that when newspapers prepare their own advertisements, they take particular care to avoid basic errors, such as, in this case, an inappropriate apostrophe and a missing one.

Delivering dinners, incidentally, must be a very rare component of a job specification for an employee of a newspaper.



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