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.


The Tucson Weekly Gets The Angries Over Internet Satire

While poking around the Facebooks this morning, I clicked on a link a friend posted to the satire website The National Report, and I’m intentionally not linking to them. Because I don’t enjoy them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy good satire or comedy, it’s…that…I don’t think they’re very good at it. Like the Daily Currant, the National Report.comes up with absurd premises, but they don’t take their articles to the point where they’re both thought-provoking enough to be relevant and outrageous enough to be clearly satirical (unless you’re completely myopic). For an outstanding example of brilliant, relevant, outrageous, thought-provoking satire, see The Onion’s article about 9/11 hijackers and their surprise to find themselves in Hell.

So I was mentally pretty open to the headline on the Tucson Weekly claiming that not everyone on the internet can write satire. Failed satire does become clutter. These articles are noise. I often find myself in the position of having to point out that something posted as an “OMG CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS???” article is, in fact, failed satire, false, and not part of the legitimate conversation. I really wanted to like the Tucson Weekly article, I did.

Only…dude…you sound like the nerdy kid in school who’s pissed that the smart-ass gets all the attention, so you’re taking your pen and showing ’em all. ALL! Let ’em have it, Holden Caulfield.

Somebody needs a nap.  CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger...oooooh...magic...

Somebody needs a nap. CLICK THE PICTURE to see it bigger…oooooh…magic…

♦ IF you or anyone you know has gone anywhere within the internet in the last 10 years and hasn’t figured out that Andy Borowitz and his eponymous report are satirical, then you need to get out more often. He writes like a dream come true and is always over-the-top funny.

♦ IF you’re going to talk about all the clutter and distraction on the internet, then for pity’s sake, you (or your editor) ought to have the sense not to run a link to an article (and in fact, your news organ’s own article) about the newest video featuring Keyboard Cat.

♦ IF you’re going to argue that satire that fails to launch muddies the waters of journalistic integrity, and you sniffingly look down your nose at misfired satire while you define yourself as a capital-J Journalist, then really, you ought not to end your op-ed piece by calling the writers you don’t like “dicks”. Because adolescent name-calling is the earmark of professionalism (only, opposite).

I actually checked to make sure that I wasn’t stuck in some meta-satire spiral and that this article wasn’t the culmination of some perfect storm of failed satire the likes of which the world has never before seen. But no, to the best of my ability to understand, this article is real, and the Tucson Weekly is not a wannabe-Onion-style news outlet. Students, take note: this entire article is an exercise in how to undermine your own point. What this guy does? Don’t do.

Now, here’s Keyboard Cat to play us out with his brilliant new “96 Tears“.

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