Robert's Feed
Jan 5, 2011
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CES: Portraits in purple prose (part one)

I was going to call this blog entry about this year’s Consumer Electronics Show press releases, “language crimes.” But that’s overheated. I’ll call it “overexcited claims” instead. It’s a sample of the sometimes purple, overwrought prose that press agents produce to show off clients’ products. At shows like CES, where 125,000 people overwhelm Las Vegas to gawk at consumer electronics for several days, there’s a lot of effort to get attention from harried, cranky journalists.

Odd results occur when you pair dramatic words with products that, no matter how much you might love them, don’t lend themselves to such… Byronic descriptions. Often accompanying them are typical buzzwords of the technology public relations corps, which after 15 years still leave me wondering if perhaps I haven’t mastered my native language.

Jan 5, 2011
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CES: One strip club, one Howard Stern producer and 125,000 friends

In my second day of searching for the most interesting and interestingly written press releases about the Consumer Electronics Show, I came across what appears to be an invitation for 125,000 people:

LAS VEGAS–(Business Wire)– Gary Dell`Abate, best-selling author and long-time producer of The Howard Stern Show will host a party January 8th at Rick`s Cabaret Las Vegas, to which he has invited all fellow attendees of the world-famous Consumer Electronics Show. The club is part of the Rick`s Cabaret International, Inc. (NASDAQ:RICK) group of upscale gentlemen`s clubs.

Jan 5, 2011
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“Dear Robert, I read your article with interest…”

Nearly every time I write an article that hooks into the big news of the day, I get within minutes or hours several e-mails that begin, “Dear Robert, I read your article with interest.” The spokesman or spokeswoman who wrote the article usually introduces me to a lawyer, professor, businessperson, doctor, philosopher or some other person who would like to add their point of view to the next update of the article that I write.

The e-mail usually includes a condensed resume of the person to whom I’m being introduced, and explains why that person is an expert and should appear as such in my article. I appreciate getting these. There is every reason to add more people to your list of contacts. Yet, these people never quite measure up to how they’re advertised.

Jan 4, 2011
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CES: Achieve new positions

If you’re going to Las Vegas, you might as well go to bed in public. And what better way to do that than on a mattress whose ability to achieve new positions is unrivaled? Leonard Cohen would be jealous.

Yes, it’s true.  There will be a mattress on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center starting January 6 for the 2011 CES show.

Jan 4, 2011
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CES: Riding in cars with sources

Here’s a note that my editor received from the press agent for Line2, which bills itself as “one of the most famous and best selling apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (Android is being announced just before CES).” Among other things, Line2 “is a second line on your iPhone or Android phone that allows you to place and receive calls and SMS for free over Wi-Fi.  When Wi-Fi is unavailable, Line2 will connect over a 3G/4G data connection or the cellular network.  Never miss a call because you are out of range or Wi-Fi or cellular coverage.”

You have received the following last week but we just wanted to post it again for your convenience

Jan 4, 2011
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CES: You will take this meeting. You will take this meeting.

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The Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as most people call it, produces approximately 1 million press releases for every person who attends the annual Las Vegas technology trade show. (Think: “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”)

Here are excerpts from my favorite one so far:

CARDIFF, Calif.,  Jan. 4, 2011  /PRNewswire/ –  Mind Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets: JEDM), announced today that the Company’s management team will be attending the  Consumer Electronics Show (CES)  Conference in  Las VegasJanuary 6-9, 2011.

Dec 29, 2010
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I’m actually very friendly! (From the kindly editor files)

A regular and treasured reader points out that I sound like I could use some prescription-strength antacids. I should point out that I’m not really cranky. I enjoy reading, writing, reporting and editing. That makes me… enthusiastic, shall we say. Maybe it’s time to change the name of my missives to “From the kindly editor files.” People seem to prefer angry on TV, but this is the Internet and we can be nice to each other here.

Dec 29, 2010
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“Recasts” – Why I hate it (From the cranky editor files)

Where I work, we add “trashlines” to our stories when we update them. They tell the reader what is new in the story. They usually say things like, “Adds analyst comment, stock price,” “Adds details from conference call, CEO comment, byline” and so on. They are written inside parentheses, usually one space in from the left margin, not five spaces. They look like this:

(Adds a dash of this, a bit of whatever, some more stuff)

Lately, I see this word showing up more often: “Recasts.” I see it in situations like this: “Recasts first paragraph, adds details from conference call,” or “Recasts lede to focus on outlook.”

Dec 27, 2010
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Cash-strapped consumers (From the cranky editor files)

“Cash-strapped” needs some time to recover from overuse. About 500 years should do it. “Cash-strapped consumers” too.

Why do we like it so much? I’m not sure. I guess:

- We find it hard to say “people who can’t afford as much as they used to,” or “poor people” or “people trying to save money.” Those are lengthy and even awkward, depending on the sentence in which you use them. The problem with “cash-strapped,” when you examine it closely, is that it is so convenient that almost no other construction will do, so we use and use and use the phrase until it’s warn smooth like a stone. And that’s the problem, it has no traction left. It sounds like one more word in the dictionary, not an evocative phrase.

Dec 24, 2010
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I reckon I aim to tell you that it is set to happen (From the cranky editor files)

I don’t “aim to” do things in my stories. When I was growing up, the people who said they “aim to” do things invariably were born and raised in the South. It might come naturally to Texans and Floridians, but in all uses in our stories, it sounds like rednecks or cowboys talking. I remember water-skiing (badly) in DeLeon Springs off the St John’s River in Florida when I was 14. Karen, the girl who took us out in the boat, kept “aimin’ for to do” this and that. Nice girl, but she was born chicken-fried if you know what I mean. If I want southern and I want news, I’ll take Holly Hunter’s diction in “Broadcast News” instead. I’d rather we “planned” to do things or “wanted” to do things. But I see “aims to” all the time.

The same goes for “is to.” Microsoft “is to announce” or “is set to announce.” Nice scoop, nice matcher, whatever it is. But I’m sneering anyway because it strikes my ear as a combination of lame, high-handed and, well, English. Let’s be strong in our words if we can. Stronger than this never-edited peeve essay, at least.