Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Golden Pioneer, Improved Edition

Barb Palermo has worked tirelessly to try to bring about a return to common sense in a very unforgiving and wearying setting, the labyrinth that is public policy making in the City of Salem, Oregon.

The current recall of eggs nationwide -- some half billion or more -- due to salmonella concerns brings home again

a) how insane the industrial food system is
b) how wasteful it is
c) how vulnerable it is

So it's important that we permit ordinary people to go back to what was a pretty common practice everywhere (and in Salem until the 70s!) -- keeping a few hens for eggs and garden upkeep services.

The current backyard hens proposal by the city is a screwy Rube Goldberg set-up of rules driven by unnecessary paranoia and outright race and class bias, but none of that is Barb's fault or the fault of any Chickens in the Yard stalwarts, most of whom live in West Salem (where the neighborhood association overwhelmingly supports backyard hens, and where the City Councilor, Dan Clem, has adamantly opposed them).

CITY folks have devoted themselves to helping the rest of us, and we should be grateful. The image above will be on the new version of CITY's extensive research report on the ins and outs of backyard henkeeping. If you feel like tossing a few bucks into the hat -- and getting some cool swag in return -- you can do so here.

The passive voice was used

Passive voiceImage by catheroo via FlickrOne of the great losses with the collapse of newspapers is the end of editors. Newspapers are stretched so thin that the editing function has essentially disappeared or is being handled by unqualified people or, worse, software. This creates a vicious cycle, where the product put onto the page is so poorly crafted that readers conclude that there really is no reason to pay a corporation for stale news. When the writing in the only daily in town wouldn't cut it in the local high school paper, you know things are in a bad state. Today's example:
"A Salem man has been arrested for allegedly shooting another man during an apparent attempt to steal medical marijuana Monday."
I bet being allegedly shot doesn't hurt a bit. The writer makes a hash of the lede by casting it into the passive voice, which is why "alleged" -- a fifty-cent word for "said" that journalists clearly don't understand and toss into all their police and legal stories haphazardly -- has to be converted to the bizarre modifier "allegedly," which makes no sense when attached to "shooting."

You know what's great about the active voice? It immediately points up what's missing from that lede (which is pretty much everything in this instance). Good journalism answers this question: Who did what to whom. Convert that lede to active voice and the gaps stand out:
(Jurisdiction) police arrested a Salem man, (name), on (date) (in place, if not same as jurisdiction or is otherwise significant). Police believe (name) shot (victim's name) while trying to steal (victim's last name)'s medical marijuana. . . .
The original garbled lede is 20 words of nonsense. Recast in the active voice and with the gaps filled in, it takes just 23 words to deliver a whole lot more news:
Salem police arrested a Salem man, Scott Farler, on Tuesday. They believe Farler shot Jamison Nguyen, while trying to steal Nguyen's medical marijuana. . . .
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