Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
October 1st, 2004


Presentation is everything

The Blueprint released its first edition of the year today. I’ve generally stopped the practice of critiquing every issue that comes out – it’s just too tedious. But I couldn’t resist this time. Read on.

Squiggly green underlines

The first thing I noticed when Josh Pendl handed me a copy was that the masthead (logo area) on the front page had changed, for the first time since I entered St. X. Maybe they’re trying something new this year?

Maybe, but it’s not helping my opinion of the newspaper. Since I’ve started reading the Blueprint, it’s had a decent standard of typographical quality for a newspaper – which isn’t saying too much. There’s always been the occasional blatant typo (look for the “[sic]” scattered around all over the place):

Hilariously enough the side fo [sic] the pen reads, “May the Farce be with You.”

But of course The Enquirer is guilty of the same. What sets this issue of the Blueprint apart from the previous ones is not that it suddenly switched to the Courier New typeface in the middle of a word:

“Last year was so different. It just wasn’t fun to go to any of the sports games anymore. I like it now.” [sic] says Tyler Grote ’06.

It’s not that they used a backwards apostrophe in a prominent place, either. A subtitle on the front page, above the fold reads:

Rasso‘s [sic] influence still echoes

And it’s not the excessive punctuation in some places:

The acoustics on the speakers in the theater are so strong that enormous cushions, [and a] visible backstage, are needed to pad them.. [sic]

Or the lack thereof in other places:

As usual, “Any conventional footwear may be worn[.]” Meaning you don’t have to wear shoes if you don’t want to.

And it’s not that there’s an uncapitalized I somewhere in there:

Nager rose up flooding my face crimson red, “ Why [sic] am i [sic] even here?” I asked.

And it’s not that someone couldn’t figure out where to put the parentheses:

The Backside decided to take on the challenge and rated every single drinking fountain in the school (except for the religion wing. The construction workers must have been on to us).

(A parenthetical phrase within a sentence should not contain complete sentences. They put 1½ sentences in there.)

I’m not just being picky; after all, these are errors that Microsoft Word is good at catching. I’m even getting tons of those little squiggly green underlines as I’m typing right now. What sets this issue apart is that it contains such atrocious errors that most people couldn’t even tell what they were getting at. That’s failure when it comes to journalistic standards. Case in point:

Most of the protesters are members of the rival Narc Party and from the newly formed Semantic [sic] Party.

They said “Semantic,” which indicates that there’s a political party concerned with the meanings of words. But they probably meant semitic, which would indicate that there’s a rival Jewish party. Which of course means that the joke flew right over everyone’s heads.

Time for lunch

So far I’ve just been hounding the Blueprint on their mechanics. But have you also noticed how incredibly meaningless their accompanying photos are? “Students Question Cafeteria Prices” has on the front page a photo of a student paying for his lunch. And guess what the caption read? “A student pays for his lunch.” Well, duh.

The article later has another photo. This time two servers are preparing more plates, as two students line up to get lunch. Guess what the caption read? “As servers prepare more plates, students [line] up to get lunch.” Gee, as if I hadn’t seen that before?

Now, these mundane photos may make for exceptional photography, and they may capture the photographer’s expression in ways no words can express, but this isn’t an art portfolio: it’s a newspaper. The photos that accompany the text has to also tell the news. Paying for lunch, and then eating it, is not news. A photo of a student about to slam his wallet on the ground after having spent all his hard-earned cash to buy a Spartan, undercooked meal: now that’s news. (Not that I saw that happen or anything; it just sounds good.)

If the editing staff spent as much time reviewing the photos and their captions as they spent reviewing the headlines on the front page; if they spent as much time running the spelling and grammar checks in Word, or in any other decent piece of software, no doubt they’d have a much more professional and much more respectable periodical.

But at the time being, I hold the Blueprint in much the same light as I held the X-Ray last year. Pitiful.