Thursday, December 07, 2006

Suggestion Number Two On How To Improve Los Angeles Times! Have All Headlines Approved By Writers!

A not uncommon occurrence when I talk to an LA Times writer after an article appears in print (or on-line) is that they almost 'died' when they read the headline appended to their article without their input. To protect both the innocent and the guilty, I will refrain from mentioning which recent story titles upset which writers.

Like most papers, the Times has people who edit the stories and people who write the titles. Now usually, the writer get to see the story edits, but they usually do not see, much less approve, the story titles. And increasingly frequently, these titles sometimes either distort the intent of the story or, on rarer occasions, even get the facts of the story wrong, a situation that would be fixed if the writer was given a chance to see - and sign off on - the title before it goes to press or on-line.

Today's very minor example is below:

Cal State panel fails to suspend Cyprus program

Deborah Schoch

December 7, 2006

A trustee committee for the Cal State system declined Wednesday to suspend an overseas study program on conflict resolution held on the divided island of Cyprus.

Now the panel failing to do something is a far stronger statement - and makes for a snappier headline - when compared to the panel 'declining' to take an action. But is it... accurate?

I don't think so. Below are some web definitions of 'fail':

# fail to do something; leave something undone; "She failed to notice that her child was no longer in his crib"; "The secretary failed to call the customer and the company lost the account"
# be unsuccessful; "Where do today's public schools fail?"; "The attempt to rescue the hostages failed miserably"
# disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake; "His sense of smell failed him this time"; "His strength finally failed him"; "His children failed him in the crisis"
# stop operating or functioning; "The engine finally went"; "The car died on the road"; "The bus we travelled in broke down on the way to town"; "The coffee maker broke"; "The engine failed on the way to town"; "her eyesight went after the accident"
# be unable; "I fail to understand your motives"
# judge unacceptable; "The teacher failed six students"
# fail to get a passing grade; "She studied hard but failed nevertheless"; "Did I fail the test?"
# fall short in what is expected; "She failed in her obligations as a good daughter-in-law"; "We must not fail his obligation to the victims of the Holocaust"
# become bankrupt or insolvent; fail financially and close; "The toy company went bankrupt after the competition hired cheap Mexican labor"; "A number of banks failed that year"
# prove insufficient; "The water supply for the town failed after a long drought"
# get worse; "Her health is declining"

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