Thursday, January 26, 2012

Penney want a cracker?

You may have heard that J.C. Penney is permanently cutting its prices

Well, no, it isn’t. I didn’t go to business school, but I think it’s safe to say that selling your fine Stafford Signature no-iron shirts at 2012 prices is a piss-poor strategy for 2015 and 2020 and 2050. I doubt that’s what the current executives have in mind, and even if they did, I really doubt the current executives are immortal. Not that the company will necessarily outlast them, especially if I’m somehow wrong about all this. (Note to self: Invent time machine and stock up on 20-cent shirts, just in case.)

But I’m not wrong. And so, Journalism 101: Do not report that anybody is going to do anything. You’re not a seer. You can report that the company says it’s going to do so-and-so, and even then you have to first ask yourself whether the CEO or the spokesman really meant what was said. 

In this case, the wording is clearly a mistake. The company meant “permanent” in the sense of regular prices as opposed to sale prices. It’s lowering regular prices and cutting back on sales in a strategy that may or may not work. If the strategy doesn’t work, the company has every right to change course -- and if it does, a bunch of news outlets will be revealed as big, fat liars. Even if it does work, the company has every right to raise its lowered prices a bit every once in a while to keep up with inflation. And a bunch of news outlets will be revealed as big, fat liars. 

Don’t be a parrot. When a cop tells you the suspect produced a weapon, you’re allowed to say the robber pulled out a gun. When Reuters tells you about lorries and trainers and high-calorie biscuits, you’re allowed to say trucks and sneakers and energy bars. I don’t care what J.C. Penney’s news release says; your job is to use your own words to tell the story. Journalists should not be stenographers. If your editor tells you to “type in this here press release,” you should start looking for another job, one at a real news organization. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Or Perhaps Some Counterprogramming

Not interested in the big game? Tired of the Puppy Bowl? Tune to Travel Channel at 6 p.m. Feb. 5 for SUPERB OWL SUNDAY.* Join who else but Andrew Zimmern for a tour of some places where the bird is as delicious as it is wise.

Brought to you with limited commercial interruption by Tootsie Pops.**

*Not really.
**Not really.

Introducing My New Sports Bar

To put it another way: Super Bowl. Two words.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No Problem. I'm Fine.

I had to laugh when I saw the comments on a nice DailyWritingTips review of "Garner's Modern American Usage" quickly devolve into a discussion of the plague of "No problem" as a substitute for "You're welcome" in response to "Thank you."

Now, I'll continue to make a prescriptivist spectacle of myself and argue that caring less and not caring less are two different things, and that literally doesn't mean "not literally." I'll roll my eyes at the new vowel shift, which has today's youth sitting at their dusks to take their tusts (and hoping to do well to please Mom and Dodd). I'll refuse to say, OK, fine, if everybody gets confused about stanch and staunch and gantlet and gauntlet, I guess they win. But, for the life of me, I cannot fathom why anyone would be so married to the "You're welcome" convention that any deviation causes them emotional distress.

I'd write a little more about that, but I guess I already did.

Oh, and -- as I said in the comments to that blog post -- I'm fine with "I'm fine" as a response to "Can I get you something to drink?" You don't have to be named Geoffrey to see that it makes perfect sense as shorthand for "I'm fine without a lovely beverage, thank you."