Dear Los Angeles Times, I write about you out of sorrow, not anger. (Far be it from me to kick you while you’re down. I am rooting for you, Los Angeles Times.) But in the spirit of love, I have to ask, Do you still employ copy editors? Is there anyone — even one person — assigned to read the paper before it goes to print?
I’ve read only half of the Arts & Books section so far this morning. I’m going to keep reading, but it’s going to be difficult to forget these two things I’ve found already.
Here’s the second-worst thing I’ve found, in the Ask Amy column, where Amy advises a person not to tell her (or his) boss about future plans to leave the position and move away:
Work toward your goal, and once you have protected for your own downside you can disclose your plans to everyone.
Fine advice, if you can understand it. In this use, “protected” is a transitive verb, meaning it requires an object. Without that object, the verb makes no sense, and we’re left to wonder just what should be protected. Herself? Her own ass? Let’s see what happens if we supply our own potential objects for this verb.
“Work toward your goal, and once you have protected humankind for your own downside you can disclose your plans to everyone.”
“Work toward your goal, and once you have protected Cthulhu for your own downside you can disclose your plans to everyone.”
“Work toward your goal, and once you have protected Ted Cruz for your own downside you can disclose your plans to everyone.”
Really, it could be anything.
Granted, this was in the Ask Amy column, but given her response, I wouldn’t Ask Amy anything. She can’t communicate. You might Ask, but her response is a Zen riddle. Perhaps a copy editor should have caught this and inserted the most likely object: “yourself.” Now it would read, “Work toward your goal, and once you have protected yourself for your own downside you can disclose your plans to everyone.” It’s still clumsy, because, again, Amy’s no writer, but it’s more intelligible. Maybe the best response Amy could have written would have been this one: “No. Don’t.” Which is awfully direct — but I have to think that anyone who writes to a newspaper column to seek advice on whether or not to tell her boss months in advance that she’s considering moving to the big city, and that therefore said boss should strongly consider hiring the new applicant for the assistant position who would be ideal for taking over her job, well, I think that person needs a stern talking-to. About not being a bonehead.
That was the second-worst thing I found in today’s paper. Here’s the worst-written thing I’ve found. (So far. Bear in mind, I’m only a few pages into today’s edition.)
In a roundup about the 2015 edition of “Best American Comics,” Carolina Miranda writes of one artist:
“Originally born in Ireland, David Sandlin moved to the U.S. as a teenager and now lives in New York, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts.”
Okay, hands up, who knows what David Sandlin has in common with Jesus. Anyone? That’s right — each of them was born more than once. Jesus was born, died, and then was born again as a grown man coming back from the dead in a cave. David Sandlin was originally born in Ireland, and then I guess he was born somewhere else (it goes unnamed), and then he moved to the U.S. Given his two births, Sandlin must be an interesting character. I was born only once (that I know of), and I don’t remember it at all. I’d like to ask Sandlin about his own experiences.
I wonder if the unfortunate construction of “Originally born in Ireland…” is actually the result of bad editing (as opposed to no editing). Or if it is indeed Carolina Miranda’s mistake. If it’s the latter, it’s the sort of mistake that we all make at one point or another, and I’m sure she winced when she saw it in print. I enjoyed the rest of her piece, and was thrilled to see alternative comics given a two-page spread in the sadly dwindling newspaper — but now the big takeaway is the glaring error.
More of these errors were caught and corrected when newspapers could afford more and better copy editors.
Sometimes I wish I could read the way most people read. But mostly, I wish we had more and better editors.