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My dark secret revealed

I harbor a love that dare not speak its name. I like reporters.

Oh, I’ve kept up a good front, maintaining a facade of the traditional hostility between writers and editors. A newish reporter once wanted an escort when she had to approach me about a change in her story. “I’ve read his blog,” she said. “He hates reporters.”

It’s a useful reputation. People prepare for court more carefully when they know that they are going to come before a hanging judge.

But—how could I have endured it otherwise over the past three decades?—I like writing, and I like the people who produce it.

Some of them, anyhow.

Back in my copy desk days before the [cough] hiatus [cough], I had the pleasure of working as the copy editor on several of the articles by Bob Little on medical care of U.S. soldiers in combat that so discomfited the military medical authorities. I also edited a number of articles by Diana Sugg, some of which won her a Pulitzer Prize.

Of course, little actual editing was involved with either Mr. Little or Ms. Sugg, because both of them took the trouble to think through what they wanted to say, to organize it, and to express it clearly. Their stories always came to me with their faces and hands washed.

I thought I’d mention a couple of the writers with whose work I’m smitten. Not to weary you with too lengthy a post, here are extracts from three of them.

 

1. Jay Hancock, wondering how it is that the heads of some nonprofit hospitals in Maryland make seven-figure salaries, plus perks, while the hospitals are taking people to court for inability to pay their bills:

Close to a dozen had personal dues for "social clubs" financed by your charitable donations, tax dollars and health insurance premiums. Many enjoy lavish and opaque executive retirement plans that also put upward pressure on the medical costs that threaten government budgets and the economy. Don't say they're worth it. Don't say that there's a "market" in hospital-management talent and that organizations must pay top dollar. And really, don't start quoting Wall Street salaries to try to make these look reasonable.

Hospitals aren't Goldman Sachs. They're not Stanley Black & Decker or Microsoft, either. They're nonprofits, getting charitable donations and huge government subsidies beyond all the loot they rake in from Medicare and Medicaid. If the newly required disclosures on the IRS "Form 990" put pressure on hospital boards and CEOs to tone it down, it's about time.

 

2. Here’s Eileen Ambrose, warning you in clear, straightforward prose about arbitration clauses:

Lease a car, enroll in a cell phone plan or finance the purchase of a major appliance, and you're likely signing away your rights.

Most consumer contracts include clauses that require you to take any disputes with the auto dealership, phone company or retailer to an arbitrator — one chosen by the business. You can't take the business to court. You might not even be able to take part in a class action lawsuit with others who have similar complaints. And the arbitrator's decision — with no explanation — is generally final.

Consumers often aren't aware of this because the clauses are buried in the fine print of contracts. And even those who know what to look for say it's almost impossible to avoid arbitration mandates when signing up for a product or service.

 

3. And Jean Marbella meditates on how we have come to be inundated with low-grade celebrities from reality shows:

For one thing, have you noticed that the whole concept of celebrity has depreciated even faster than your house? There are all sorts of these not-movie stars, not-royalty, not-rock stars who nonetheless have grabbed the public's imagination, or at least the imagination of the editors deciding who goes on the cover of In Touch or People.

Now, I try to keep up with the celebs as much as anyone — anyone, that is, who sneak-reads those magazines in the grocery store line. I admit I'm curious enough about who has sprouted cellulite or what's going on with Jen's ticking ovaries, but not so curious that I'll actually pay to find out.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Embarrassing to make such a public confession of my weakness. So I’m putting it out a little after midnight in the middle of a holiday weekend, in hopes that it may pass largely unnoticed and unremarked.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 12:36 AM | | Comments (13)
        

Comments

Unremarked? Fail!
Great post Mr. McIntyre.

...it may pass largely unnoticed and unremarked.

Oh, John! Wordville is more astute than that!

I think linking to Facebook may be the best strategy for keeping people from reading this shocking news! After all, nobody subscribes to or reads Facebook, right?

Some hospital administrators are paid far too much. Is that an argument for not paying one's hospital bills?

Patricia the Terse, you scare me.

But, Hal, you have to grant that she was indeed terse.

Calm your self, Mr Laurent (elegant name). I merely made an appropriate observation. And I am, upon occasion, terse. Which is far better, in my opinion, than being inert.

Some hospital administrators are paid far too much. Is that an argument for not paying one's bills?

No.

"I thought I’d mention a couple of the writers with whose work I’m smitten. Not to weary you with too lengthy a post, here are extracts from three of them."

I thought "couple" meant two.

From the New Oxford American Dictionary

couple 1two individuals of the same sort considered together. ... 2 informalan indefinite small number.

But you knew that, didn't you?

Some hospital administrators are paid far too much. Is that an argument for not paying one's bills?

No, and to my recollection, no one in the original column or in my post said that it was.

Exactly.

re: "People prepare for court more carefully when they know that they are going to come before a hanging judge."

Actually, in California if you think the judge you've just been assigned to is too strict, too lenient or just too demanding (actually expecting people to be on time and prepared!), then you don't have to prepare for court more carefully. Instead, you can just fire the judge.

That's right: fire the judge. Every party gets one opportunity simply to declare a judge disqualified from hearing their case, whether criminal, civil, family, probate, whatever. They don't have to state any particular reason or prove the disqualification; it's peremptory, a complete freebie.

I've seen this code section invoked repeatedly by some attorneys. It has nothing to do with the abilities of the judge, yet says volumes about the abilities (or lack thereof) of the attorney. I wonder what would happen in the newsroom if there were a similar device for bouncing an editor.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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