Insult to Injury

Today’s Times has done it again.  A Page 1 article about Ethiopia starts off strongly, but (don’t turn the page!) deteriorates as it goes on and on and on.  Halfway down p. A8, the author decides to get coy and parody the British colonial way of thinking, but ends up just insulting these proud people.  It’s straight news reporting all the way, until:

They saw thorny hills and thirsty people.  Even today, it is still like that.  What passes for a town is a huddle of bubble-shaped huts, the movable homes of camel-thwacking nomads who somehow survive out here.  For roads, picture Tonka truck tracks running through a sandbox.  The primary elements in this world are skin and bone and sun and rock.  And guns.  Loads of guns.

C’mon, Jeff.  Yes, the British may have seen thorns and thirst.  But you are the one who sees CAMEL-THWACKING NOMADS!  Are you kidding?  You can’t just flip tones here because you want to be creative, or fun or whatever you’re doing.  And you continue the mocking(?) pseudo-mocking(?) tone with the toy truck analogy which is equally insulting.  I would preface that comment with My powers of description have deserted me momentarily, so I’ll go all omniscient narrator on your ass, which not only distances me from my subject but diminishes it as well.

This only serves to tell the reader that when it comes to this reporter’s personal view, he is too scared or arrogant to deal with it on its face.  He suddenly telescopes back until he’s seeing little ants on the battlefield.  Whew!  What a relief!  I don’t have to process the terrible things I’ve seen.Thwacked Camel

He really nails this outlook in the final sentence when he refers to human features as “elements.”  He could have flashed his poetic license with images like metal, sun, stone, sand, nonhuman “elements” in the landscape, and been just fine.  He could have even contrasted the desperate, tired soldiers or villagers against the stark backdrop of these elements.

It’s just a quick rewrite.  Again, I blame Jeff’s editors who failed to see the desperate, tired face of their writer.

Another Day, Another Error

CondiThe article is called “Rice and Syrian Discuss Borders at Iraq Meeting.”  If that isn’t jingoistic enough, one of the subheads reads “She Tries to Confer With Iranian, Too.” 

Try out the word “Italian” or “Frenchman” to see how stupid it sounds.

Already on high red alert, we drag our sorry asses down through paragraph 3, only to soon find:

But he [Foreign Minister Motaki of Iran] left the dinner, held by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, before Ms. Rice arrived — and apparently before eating.

At the day’s lunch,…

All right.  I don’t know what Motaki’s problem was — food poisoning?  a leg injury from getting kicked under the table?  hurt feelings? — but thank heavens Mr. Gheit was there to catch him and hold him up. 

Wait.  Did I miss something?  Oh, my bad.  He “held” him, not held him up.  Much more loving.  More caring.  Either they’re fantastic old pals, or… perhaps something more, Governor McGreevey?

Touched, I can’t wait to get to the next paragraph.  “At the day’s lunch…” begins the chunk.  Whoa.  Are we backtracking now?  I remember learning in high school that one should never go back in time in a news article until one has thoroughly covered the current topic.  Then the writer can go and fill in the history.  But this feels like an amateurish movie effect–an on-screen ripple-dissolve as the main character caresses his own chin and looks at the ceiling in wonder, harp music playing… 

It’s like the dot-dot-dot I just typed.  Bad New York Times!  I won’t blame authors Cooper and Slackman so much.  I’ll blame their copy editor and their editor!