Style with flair

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

The arguments of journalists are probably only fascinating to journalists. Maybe. As soon as I say that, I’m reminded of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the diverse opinions among journalists about how her tenure in jail is to be viewed. Some have given her awards for standing up for all journalists’ rights to conduct their business. Others have said that when a protected source turns out to be a manipulator, the agreement between journalist and source—“I promise not to reveal your identity, but you promise that what you are telling me is true”—become moot. I happen to come down on the side that says journalists shouldn’t go to jail to protect manipulative liars. On the other hand, I don’t believe federal grand juries should be able to force journalists to reveal their sources, and there should be a shield law.

On a more nuts-and-bolts level, on Friday, Dennis, Kris and I were discussing how consistency of style does or does not influence the general quality of an article or a publication. “Style” is basically the grammar of the newspaper. We use a modified version of the Associated Press style, which among other things says we usually abbreviate months when they are combined with a date and a year (Oct. 31, 2005), we don’t have a comma before the conjunction in a series (apples, pears and peaches), and we don’t put periods in CIA, but we do put periods in U.S. (and we do use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases).

However, against AP Style, we don’t use quotation marks around composition titles like books or movies; we italicize them, instead.

I’m never going to be the guy who proclaims himself “King of the Copy Editors,” but I do wonder if any of you ever get irritated by the incorrect use of apostrophes, voice and capitalization you see in various media.

To me, good writing is only secondary to solid reporting when it comes to putting out good newspapers.

What do you think?