CBS News, I Beg You: Write More Gooder, Pleez

I try not to be a total grammar freak. Then this article showed up in my Facebook feed, and it was so poorly written that I couldn’t look on in indifference. I realize this is partially–only partially–a transcript from the accompanying news video, but even with the pictures working in concert with the reporter, the story is still half-assed. For people like me, who read the articles rather than watch a video (because I prefer reading, and do we really need things chattering at us all the time?), the transcript is a nightmare.

If you read this and think that the timeline is funky, then FYI I thought that too, until I realized the article was written in 2011. I hope Steve Hartman has gotten an editor by now.

DAUPHIN BOROUGH, Penn. – The statue appeared in the middle of the Susquehanna River, near a town in the middle of Pennsylvania called Dauphin Borough. if you said, “in Dauphin Boro, a small town eight miles north from Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg”, that would have given the reader (and viewer) a much better idea of where you’re talking about.

According to news reports at the time (at what time? 5PM? 1776? Daylight savings time? You give no time), drivers got so distracted, the comma is unnecessary but meh, OK they started running into each other. As an aside, this is central PA, so the drivers could be Amish buggy drivers. We don’t know. You don’t clarify.

As CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports, it wasn’t just any statue. The huge edifice statue (an edifice is a building), that seemed to just emerge from the river that morning (what morning? aren’t the basic tenets of journalism “Who, What, Where, When, and Why”? And yet you refuse to tell us when any of this happened) and still greets commuters today (did this go up yesterday? Then it’s not a big deal), was none other than Lady Liberty herself.

How on Earth did it get here there (you’re mixing your adverbs; when you say it got “here”, that makes it sound like it ended up on your desk. Rather, it got “there”, in the middle of the Susquehanna River.)? No one would claim claimed responsibility at the time. But now, 25 years later, it is a mystery no more (hackneyed choice of phrase. I can live with it, but you can do better next time).

“Kept it quiet,” said Gene Stlip Stilp. “That was part of the fun of the whole thing.”

Stilp was a local lawyer (did he give all that up for rogue statue construction? What does he do now? And what does his lawyering have to do with the story, anyway? Can’t he just be a local resident? Local patriot? Local mischief maker?) who built the statue in a friend’s garage to honor the New York Statue of Liberty. “It was going to be the 100th anniversary and it’d be nice to do something here,” Stlip Stilp said.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty is seen in the Susquehanna River.
A replica of the Statue of Liberty is seen in the Susquehanna River.


Made from plywood and Venetian blinds, (unnecessary comma) to cut down on wind resistance, Stlip Stilp put it together himself and then recruited a handful of accomplices to sneak it onto an old railroad pier in the middle of the night.

“I still want to know,” Ed Chubb asked (who is this guy? And why do we care what he asked?), “is the statute of limitations up for anything we might have…?”

“The statute of limitations is passed,” Stlip STILP, goddamit! replied.

What they did was not only technically illegal (because why? Says who? Says you? Please explain. If space is a concern, you could explain how they broke the law in the opening clause, like this: What they did was not only commit illegal trespass on state land, it was also a poorly conceived stunt., it was also highly ill-conceived (highly ill? I don’t think so. Poorly conceived. Better. And why was it poorly conceived? Bad boating area? Rapids? Bermuda Triangle? Crazy cannibal families in those parts that it’s best to not go near?) 

Steve Oliphant (Who?) was concered concerned about how dangerous that part of the river was. “I begged you not to go,” Oliphant told Chubb. because the cannibal clan would get him, he seemed to say. Or not. We don’t know why he was so desperate for his friend to not go.

“But when we got it up and saw it from the highway,” Chubb replied, “It was like, ‘wow Capitalize the w. Seriously. This is first grade, learning-to-write stuff. Wow, that wasn’t a bad idea, it worked.'”

The statue stood for six years until a strong gust of very PLEASE! Enough with the overuse of “very” unpatriotic wind blew her off her pedestal. That could have easily though it wasn’t; odd bit of editorializing been the end of this story, but by 1992, folks in Dauphin Borough had grown so fond of the idea of having their own Statue of Liberty that they collected $25,000 to build a replica of their replica.

This newer Clunky phrasing. Try: The replacement statue — sturdier, taller and eight times heavier — has been able to hold her ground for 14 proud and glorious years.

“Liberty, you know, the community rallied around it,” Chubb said.

If these guys the Susquehanna River statue conspirators have their way, she’ll Lady Liberty will continue to reign over the Susquehanna River as long as freedom itself.

And therein lies the end of the article. Remind me again why I…oh, never mind. Whatever I was going to ask, I realized I don’t want to have answered honestly. Just remember, people, if you’re going to write, then clarify, and clarify, and clarify again.


12 responses to CBS News, I Beg You: Write More Gooder, Pleez

  1. It’s cute that the reporter thought he didn’t need to use proper grammar for his “cute” feature story, however, GAH! I hope you sent a copy of this to him and his producer!


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I felt something in my head pop the third time the name of the guy the article was actually about was misspelled. I know we often make allowances for “cutesey”, good-timey human interest stories, but COME ON.


      • Misspelling names is a cardinal sin in journalism. Fortunately most TV reporters don’t practice journalism. I’m imagining the guy pronouncing that name wrong throughout the story.



    I hate bad grammar but since I am frequently quilty I have become perhaps less” rigid” Well written my dear!


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      I can forgive it in a personal blog; it’s not as though I’m driven to correct every single post I read, and am equally guilty of the occasional typo or verb disagreement. But this was written by a professional news service, and should hold to a higher standard. I’m disappointed in them, to say the least.



        Yes if you are paid for it, there should be a proof reader at least???


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