Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Brief Life Update No. 17: Murdoch Ahoy?/Horizontal Cliffhanger/The Fall of the Comma

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Late tonight, in the closing minutes of my shift at the Wall Street Journal, the news came in: Dow Jones took a major step toward a deal with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. by basically agreeing in principle to the media mogul's $5 billion offer to buy the organization. All it needs now is approval from the majority-holding Bancroft family---and at this point, approval from the family isn't a sure thing. (55-year-old Christopher Bancroft, for one, has been sniffing around for other alternative deals.)

As Radiohead sang in an admittedly different context: "We are standing on the edge."

Whether Dow Jones is standing on the edge of a good thing is, of course, the question of the day (or the past few months, more precisely). Jack Shafer, the entertaining media columnist at Slate who I've been reading a little more of recently, has been adamantly anti-News Corp. merger, voicing suspicions toward Murdoch and his promises that he'll keep his hands off the Wall Street Journal's news coverage. Other news outlets have published stories detailing his history as a genuine force in the media---from his business beginnings in Australia, to his purchase and transformation of The Sun in the U.K., to his acquisition of the New York Post here in America, etc.---and some of the problems he has run into in all of his endeavors with supposed broken promises and such (supposedly he ordered one of his outlets, HarperCollins, to put an end to publishing a memoir by Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong and someone I guess Murdoch plain didn't like).

, in particular, ran a cover story a couple of weeks ago in which the magazine interviewed Murdoch. Granted, he was, on the surface, fairly honest in looking back on his business past, admitting that he probably has made mistakes along the way. None of that candor, however sincere it may be, quells my own suspicions toward his claims that he's going to stay out of the Wall Street Journal's way as far as covering news goes (and he seemed insistent on this point in the Time article, saying "Why would I spend $5 billion for something in order to wreck it?"). Wouldn't conflict of interest automatically come up if News Corp. was involved in some kind of corporate scandal or something? How would the paper report on it, knowing the big man Rupert Murdoch was looking over its shoulder?

No, I think there is something to be said for the Journal's current independent state. Somehow, it just seems right to me that the nation's premiere business paper does maintain a certain amount of distance toward Wall Street and other areas it covers. The Journal being absorbed into one of the world's biggest media empires, then, seems almost like a bad joke, or a supreme irony, or whatever.

But hey, it's certainly provided for a welcome amount of drama during my abbreviated stay at the paper so far! And perhaps that drama is about to come to a climax, if it hasn't already.


On the subject of my personal life: not much to report, really. Did I mention the TrailManor RV my parents bought a few weeks ago? Well, the family and I took it out to upstate New Jersey this weekend to do some camping and some nature-walking in Pennsylvania. The most interesting part of the weekend for me, by far, was seeing Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park, a huge expanse of land made up of rocks...lots and lots of rocks left behind when glaciers melted 20,000 years ago in the last ice age. When we were there on Saturday, there was quite a crowd trying to walk on the boulder field. I tried, too---rather a hair-raising experience, I must say. To me, it felt like rock-climbing except horizontal instead of vertical; one wrong step and you might fall into a whole and hurt yourself. I got pretty far, but not nearly as far as my dad and my two younger brothers. None of us made it all the way across (which supposedly spans 400 ft. north to south). Otherwise, lots of camping out, a few mosquito bites, a brief trip to a local pond...and nice, hot weather.

And you know what hot weather means? Exposed female flesh, and lots of it.

(Sorry, I'm a pervert, so I just had to get that in there.)


To close this entry on yet another bit of copy-editing geekiness: one of my fellow copy editors alerted me to this article on MSNBC.com about the ostensible fall of the comma in writing and what the author of the article, Robert J. Samuelson, thinks its current underuse suggests about our society. According to him, it is a sad but inevitable symbol of how constantly-on-the-go American life has become---so hectic that we can't even be bothered to put in simple commas anymore to mark of prepositional words or phrases, or words like "Once" or "Naturally" that might begin a sentence.

Not sure if he's right, or even if he's serious (I do get a bit of a sense of tongue-in-cheek when I read this piece). But I am often surprised, when I'm editing stuff at the Journal or looking at proofs, at how often I think I see missing commas in copy, and how often those missing commas seem to make it---or, more accurately, not make it---into the final print paper. So, for instance, in a proof I might see a sentence that starts with the word "Inevitably" and not see a comma after it, and marvel at how another editor felt that comma unnecessary.

Should I have put a comma after "in a proof" in that last sentence?

This is the kind of thing copy editors, I guess, consider "topics of discussion" at the copy desk in addition to all the usual news items of the day and all. I say that more out of observation than criticism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like the family is getting along better. Your parents should be proud of you with the internship; you are really doing great! You are getting more confident in your abilities. Keep it up!