Ignorance of tech is not an excuse, journalists

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Some things just bring out my inner sub-editor. Take, for example, this tweet:

Also according to @brightonargus I uploaded a 'snatch' to my 'blogsite'… http://t.co/2b5taNjiY1 LOL— Beth Granter (@bethgranter) January 13, 2014

No, they couldn’t have got it that badly wrong, could they? The Argus is a good paper, with decent editors. They wouldn’t have let that kind of misuse of language be published.

Time to check the article:

They were quickly spotted by one of the demonstrators, Beth Granter, who managed to upload a ‘snatch’ of the image on her blogsite before Coca-Cola removed them from their website after about a week.

Here’s a “snatch” of the original:

A screensnatch from the Argus

Oh, dear. Inner sub-editor, out you come.

Snatch is very much the wrong word here. It’s grab (which means much the same thing in the main meaning), which is short for screengrab. I’ve never heard of a Screensnatch. And, frankly, given what else “snatch” can mean, I’m not going to Google it, either.

And “blogsite”? Really? The word for the type of website you’re looking for is a “blog”, the shortened form of “weblog”. Here’s the definition on Collins and Wikipedia. Blogsite is a ridiculous portmanteau word based, I think, on “website”. But it doesn’t work. A website is a site on the world wide web. That makes sense, but means that a blogsite is a site on the blog. Which really doesn’t make sense. People who use “blogsite” are normally doing it because they misuse “blog” to mean an entry on a blog – but that’s plain wrong (see the definitions above.) It’s equivalent to saying “I published a newspaper on my newspaperpublication”.

Please note also that the author failed to provide a link to the “blogsite” in question, which is the most obvious and reader-friendly thing to do. If you would like to see it – well, here’s the link. They also didn’t use the photo under discussion, despite the journalist talking to Beth, choosing instead to use a confusingly plain photo of non-protestors by the truck in question.

This is just staggering. I really expected better of the Argus. I’ve know plenty of journalists who take pride in not understanding the language and terms of the internet – but who would stamp on any other journalist who misused another word. There’s a word for that: hypocrisy. OK, I understand that the arrival of the internet has been hugely disruptive to many journalists, but when that sort of ignorance gets through layers of editing and into publication, then it’s just plain embarrassing.

If the English language is your tool – and it is for all journalists working in English – than you cannot take pride in not knowing one subset of the terms in use. Equally, if you’re publishing on the internet, you should know how and when to link, and use the right terms.

I don’t blame the journalist in question here – because even if she got this wrong it should have been pickled up by the editors. And it wasn’t.

Seeing these sorts of errors published – especially in a journal for such a digitally-focused town as Brighton – is plain embarrassing.

UPDATE: The news story has been updated with an appropriate screengrab and the offending paragraph now reads as follows:

They were quickly spotted by one of the demonstrators, Beth Granter, who managed to upload a screenshot of the image on her blog before Coca-Cola removed them from their website after about a week.

UPDATE 2: The story has been pulled from the Argus website, due to what I’m told is a “different” issue. The original – unmodified – version is still available in Google’s cache.(Finally expired) That’s one reason you should never just pull a story down without explanation…

UPDATE 3: Beth points out an additional issue with the original piece:

@adders also one more issue I have with their article is they chose to remove the Q from LGBTQ+ which is offensive to me, a queer person…

— Beth Granter (@bethgranter) January 14, 2014

The first time the omission appears, it’s in a transcription of what’s written in the sign, so is inaccurate, even if the later changes are to match house style.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.