Robert's Feed
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.


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.

Dec 23, 2010
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You’re an American, you’re not ‘keen on’ anything (From the cranky editor files)

In our stories, we often say that people or companies are “keen on” something or “keen to” do something. Most American readers know what that means, and most non-British speakers understand it too. Nevertheless, it is odd when stories written and published in the United States feature British English phrases that involve “keen.”

I suspect that our reporters  and editors adopt this word into their lexicons after a few years of working at a news organization whose soul resides in the UK, even if its shares do not. Our writing works best when we write as simply as we can. “Keen” is a short word, but “want” is always better, and it works all over the English-speaking world.

Dec 22, 2010
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Bulls and bears belong in the pasture (From the cranky editor files)

The headline of the story is “Investors enter 2011 in bullish mood.” The first paragraph begins with the same sentence.


I understand that people who work on Wall Street and in the financial world in general understand very well the words, “bull,” “bear,” “bullish” and “bearish.” Journalists who cover financial news naturally learn those words quickly, along with lots of other words that are endemic to this world.

Dec 14, 2010
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Selling the news: Reuters, the AP and Tribune

We and others reported Monday night that our parent company Thomson Reuters Corp is starting a U.S. general news service for U.S. publishers and broadcasters. Though my employer, Reuters News, has been providing general and business/financial/economic news for more than a century, we didn’t have a service before that would rely on a big group of hired journalists and stringers to get busy covering U.S. news in a large way.

You can see our story here, as well as the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and stories, for more information. One of the interesting aspects that we didn’t get into in our story is one of the reasons that Tribune Co, Reuters America’s first client, decided to work with our parent company.