"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Is Our Children Learning? 

So, I was looking at Google News, which I do obsessively 8 or 10 times an hour, when I saw this story of immeasurable import listed on the front page:
Sharon Stone sues doctor for liable

Dec 15, 2004 (AXcess News) Los Angeles - Actress Sharon Stone has filed a liable suit against an LA plastic surgeon for comments he made about Stone having had plastic surgery. Stone adamantly denied the claim and is suing.

Personally, I am unmoved by matters related to Sharon Stone's plastic surgery (or lack thereof). I am, however, troubled by those who mangle the English language - the word this author is looking for is "libel," not "liable." The latter is an adjective meaning "legally responsible;" the former is a noun meaning "defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or the like." A few paragraphs later, the author hits another sour note:
Even though [an attorney representing Dr. Renato Calabria,] Arturi [Barens,] says Dr. Calabria did not say Stone had surgery, Calabria did post both articles on his website, allegedly indirectly inferring that she was his patient.

No, no, no! "Infer" means "to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence;" as opposed to "imply," which means "to indicate or suggest without explicitly stating." Consider this example: "When you use 'infer' in place of 'imply,' I infer that you are an illiterate cretin." Simple, isn't it? Note also that the phrase "indirectly inferring" is logically absurd, while "indirectly implying" would be merely redundant.

The source of this linguistic hash is something called AXcess News. I wanted to learn a bit more about these folks, so I poked around their Web site. There, I learned that
AXcess News is a network of news sites designed to give readers free local access to news and information from major metropolitan areas.

AXcess News first began publishing online in August 2002. Since then, its grown into a news network with 27 major cities now online and syndicated headlines that reach over 3,000,000 viewers daily. AXcess News is now one of the largest online publishers of small cap business news in North America today....

Really? Three million readers? And none of them own dictionaries?
Our most popular resource is the Stock Guide, where visitors can track stocks on companies we cover in the news. Every company shown provides visitors quick access to the latest news article or stock quote on each company listed. A simple resource for tracking companies, AXcess News stock guide.

An unintelligible sentence fragment, that last line. Also, is it really the case that "every company shown" provides detailed information about "each company listed?" That seems kind of redundant, and leaves very little time for any of the companies to do any actual business.

Now, it is true that the good folks at AXcess News are a decidedly right wing lot - you may want to review their commentary page, where the range of opinion runs the gamut from the ridiculously conservative to the conservatively ridiculous - so some readers may think that I'm taking cheap shots at AXcess News in a thinly veiled attack on the editors' political beliefs. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. I am perfectly comfortable taking cheap shots at anyone's political beliefs, openly and directly. And I would never suggest that conservatives are inherently unschooled in proper English grammar and usage; William Safire, for example, consistently advocates for an ideological retreat to the glory days of the Fatherland, but the mother tongue never had a better ally.

I should note, by the way, that I am potentially libel - er, I mean, liable - for the extensive quoting I've done here, because all content is "copywrite protected," and "[a]ny links within our content must remain in tact." Fortunately, I am known for my tact.

In a striking bit of honesty, AXcess News mentions in its submission guidelines that the editors "encourage writers of all level of experience to submit their work." Presumably, this includes writers with a preschool level of experience. That notwithstanding - and here's the punch line, in case you were wondering - AXcess News is a proud member of the Society of Professional Journalists. That, and the inexplicable presence of this mess on Google News' front page, tells me everything I need to know about what passes for professional journalism these days.

And to think - some people think bloggers are amateurs.




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