Word of the week: "post-mortem"

Source: "On the Violent Life and Death of Osama bin Laden: A Psychological Post-Mortem" by Dr. Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D in Evil Deeds, 2 May 2011.

Definition: adjective 1. done, occuring, or collected after death. 2. following the event.

Word of the week: "duped"

Source: "Retired Bus Drivers Lose Everything in Ponzi Scheme" by Blake Ellis, 23 April 2011.

Sentence: "Bobby Bradley, a 70-year-old retired bus driver, was duped out of $215,000 -- his entire life savings."

Definition: verb (used with object) 1. to make a dupe of; deceive; delude; trick. noun (dupe) 2. a person who is easily deceived or fooled; gull. 3. a person who unquestioningly or unwittingly serves a cause or another person.

Bobby Bradley and about 150 other retired bus and train operators lost approximately $7 million after transferring their retirement savings into investment accounts run by Thomas Mitchell, an investment adviser who had gained the trust of the Los Angeles area retirees. Mitchell had been running a 15-year Ponzi scheme that collected $15 million from the retirees, and is now being charged by the Department of Justice for his criminal acts.

Catch of the week: 'Danbury, Connecticut Film Festival need each other'

Similar to the last "catch of the week" that I posted, this headline uses a comma in place if an "and," which makes the headline quite confusing. Since Danbury is a city in Connecticut and the name of the film festival is the Connecticut Film Festival, the headline can be misinterpreted to mean that a film festival in Danbury needs someone or something that the editor failed to include in the headline.

I don't understand why an "and" was once again replaced with a comma when it would only take up three more character spaces and make the headline much more understandable, especially to readers who are unfamiliar with the Connecticut Film Festival, such as myself.

Word of the week: "truancy"

Source: Behavior Disorders of Childhood by Annenberg Learner (video).

Sentence: "The behaviors [of conduct disorder] include: fighting, stealing, destroying property, truancy, and running away."

Definition: noun (plural) the act or condition of being absent without permission.

It makes complete sense that children with conduct disorder tend to display a behavior like truancy, since the behavior disorder is characterized by a pattern of repetitive behaviors wherein the rights of others or social norms, such as attending school, are violated.

Catch of the week: 'Danbury woman, man arrested on burglary charges'

The headline of Susan Tuz's News Times article, "Danbury woman, man arrested on burglary charges" is quite confusing. In order for me to understand what the headline meant, I had to click on the link and read the lead, which explains that a "25-year-old Danbury woman and her alleged getaway driver were arrested Saturday morning on burglary charges, police said" (Tuz).

The headline could have more understandable if an "and" had been used instead of a coma: "Danbury woman and man arrested on burglary charges," and I don't know why this was not considered before the article was released.

Word of the week: "buzzword"

Source: "The Fast Fix: What's Obama's new buzz word?" by Chris Cillizza, 18 April 2011.

Definition: noun a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc.

In Cillizza's headline, "buzz word" (or "buzzword") refers to President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign in which he talks so much about compassion that it seems as though "compassion" is the new "change."

Panel discusses the future of journalism

Five journalism professionals, three editors from The Echo, and over 20 attendees gathered in room 201 of the Western Connecticut State University Student Center for an online journalism panel on Wednesday, April 13.

Professor Valerie Roth opened the event by introducing the panel of journalism professionals: James Cutie, publisher of CTMirror.org; Amanda Bloom, publisher and editor of themercurial.com; Elizabeth Bacelar-Nunes, communications director of LIVEPERSON; Mark Langlois, editor of DanburyPatch.com; and Eugene Driscoll, editor of the Valley Independent Sentinel.

Roth's introduction was followed by a few words from Dr. John Briggs, head of the WCSU journalism department and adviser of The Echo, who began pitching questions to the panel of professionals about journalism and the incorporation of social media.

Bacelar-Nunes was the first to answer, and expressed her optimism for the future of journalism and social media. She enthused how important it is for journalists and freelance writers to use social media, such as Twitter, and emphasized the importance of online journalism, which she explained is currently the "fastest growing field of journalism."

Bloom, who was also optimistic about the future of journalism, said that "journalism is not dead," and pointed out how the incorporation of social media outlets has enabled writers to publish a wider variety of stories for readers to easily access.

Cutie emphasized the significant changes in format that online journalism has introduced, and noted the importance for writers to be sensitive to readers' reading habits; and Langlois explained how he left print journalism in 2007 to work in the "fun" field of online journalism.

Driscoll, who compared online journalism to print journalism, explained how the integration of social media with journalism has provided a faster way for news to get out to the public, while still maintaining the same "old fashion method" of gathering information as print journalism. He also spoke about the new relations writers have with their readers thanks to online journalism.

"There's no difference between reporters and readers anymore," Driscoll said. "[As an online journalist,] people interact with you all the time so you get immediate feedback."

The overall consensus of the group was that social media has definitely changed the face of journalism, but in a way that has: enabled quicker delivery of news stories, enhanced writer-to-reader interaction, given writers more freedom and control over what they write and how they release it to the public, and broken down the walls of competition between news organizations.

Being an aspiring journalist myself, I found the journalism discussion very insightful. Although I have always preferred traditional print journalism a bit more than online news, the panel event has made me more optimistic about the future of journalism. I am more intrigued now than I ever have been before to see how journalism will change within the next few years, and I am even more excited to fully experience it myself.

Passage of the week: 'Ex-NY mob boss makes history with trial testimony'

Joseph "Big Joey" Massino.
Tony Hays recently wrote an interesting article for Yahoo! News about 68-year-old ex-mob boss, Joseph "Big Joey" Massino, who "made gangland history by becoming the highest-ranking member of [New York City's] five Italian organized crime families to break their sacred vow of silence and testify against one of their own" (Hays). 

Massino, who is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders, agreed with authorities to wear a wire in 2005 and secretly recorded 50-year-old Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano admitting that he "ordered a hit on an associate who ran afoul of the secretive [Bonanno crime family]" (Hays).

Massino took the the witness stand at Basciano's Brooklyn trial on Tuesday and identified Basciano as the crime family's former acting boss. Basciano, who faces the death penalty if convicted of racketeering, murder, and other charges; just stared back at Massino and "steadily [chewed] on a piece of gum" (Hays).

Massino's  cooperation with police violated the sacred oath he took during an induction ceremony to protect the secret society in 1977, but "spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home[,] and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence" (Hays).

This article was very informative, gave great insight into the history of the currently case being dealt with, and did so in an easily comprehensible way. The article is also about an interesting topic, organized crime, which makes it appealing.

Word of the week: "prosecution"

Source: "Ex-NY mob boss makes history with trial testimony" by Tony Hays, 12 April 2011.

Sentence: "He testified his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence."

Definition: noun 1. Law. a) the institution and carrying on of legal proceedings against a person. b) the body of officials by whom such proceedings are instituted and carried on. 2. the following up of something undertaken or begun, usually to its completion.

The term "prosecution" is used in the Yahoo! story about ex-mob boss, Joseph Massino to mean "the institution and carrying on of legal proceedings against a person" ("prosecution") since Massino's cooperation with authorities spared Massino and his wife from legal proceedings that would ordinarily result from a criminal case such as this.

Catch of the week: 'Stamp gaffe tears Kate and William apart'

The headline of Emma Kemp's article, "Stamp gaffe tears Kate and William apart" seems to imply that Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton have broken up over a stamp gaffe. However, that is not what the article is about. Being a play-on-words, the headline refers to a commemorative double stamp that was recently released which has a picture of William on one side and his bride-to-be on the other. In between the couple's faces is a perforated line, which means that "effectively, [Will] and Kate can be torn apart" (Kemp).

Word of the week: "gaffe"

Source: "Stamp gaffe tears Kate and William apart" by Emma Kemp, 4 April 2011.

Definition: noun 1. a clumsy social error; a faux pas. 2. a blatant mistake or misjudgment.

The "clumsy social error" in this case was an "embarrassing" double stamp with Prince William on one side and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton on the other with "a perforated line down the middle" (Kemp). What makes the commemorative stamp a "gaffe" is the fact that the couple can effectively be torn apart, which some find humorous considering how the couple is to be married in less than one month.

Passage of the week: 'Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above'

Photo from Today @ Colorado State website.
Susan Saulny recently wrote an article for The New York Times entitled "Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above" about the demographic shift in the United States due to immigration and intermarriage, which really interested me since I myself am of Jamaica, German, and Italian descent.

Saulny opened her article with coverage of how students from the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association at the University of Maryland played a game of "What Are You?" in which they picked apart their peers' every feature in an effort to guess their race, and then Saulny went on to address the significant changes and impacts that people of mixed races are having on our nation's demographics, culture, and society.

Among the interesting facts and statistics Saulny presented in her article include the fact that "the crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States[,] one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to data from 2008 and 2009, [...] multiracial and multiethnic Americans (usually grouped together as "mixed race") are one of the country's fastest-growing demographic groups [and that] experts expect the racial results of the 2010 census, which will start to be released next month, to show the trend continuing or accelerating."

However, the thing I found most interesting that Saulny pointed out in her article was how "many young adults of mixed backgrounds are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for generations in favor of a much more fluid sense of identity." For example, when individuals are asked to mark their race on forms such as the census, many mixed race Americans like Michelle López-Mullins, say that "it depends on the day, and it depends on the options" (Saulny). Saulny points out that this is just one way in which they are "using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable," and I can definitely understand and relate to this.

On forms where I am asked to mark my race, I always check off two boxes (even if the instructions clearly say to only mark one option) with "Black," "African-American," or "West Indian/Virgin Isander" and "white" or "Caucasian." The option of "other" is almost always available for me to check off, and many people say I should just mark that off as my race, but I do not see why I should have to resort to classifying myself as an "other" when my races are all clearly listed on a form.

Laura Wood, 19-year-old vice president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association made a very valid point when she said, "I think it's really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that. If someone tries to call me black I say, 'yes — and white.' People have the right not to acknowledge everything, but don’t do it because society tells you that you can't."

In other words, individuals of mixed race are "asserting their freedom to identify as they choose" (Saulny), and as Wood further explains, "society is trying to tear you apart and make you pick a side," and I do not believe that is fair, reasonable, or respectful to those of us who are not simply one race but are composed of two or more ethnicities and are, as I see it at least, walking examples of one of the American dreams.

Word of the week: "deplorable"

Source: "Billboard, new law, highlight racial turn for abortion debate" by Zachary Roth, 30 March 2011.

Sentence(s): "The Chicago Abortion Fund, a pro-choice group, denounced the billboard. "The ongoing anti-choice movement to target women of color in cities across the country is both despicable and deplorable," it said in a statement."

Definition: adjective 1. causing or being a subject for grief or regret; lamentable. 2. causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; very bad.

Roth's article is about a controversial billboard in the Englewood, Chicago. Being that Englewood is a prodominently black neighborhood, the community's response to the anti-abortion billboard on display is not so welcoming since it targets the African-American community, "shame[s] black women" (Roth), and is cynical and misleading by having a picture of President Obama on it. In this article, "deplorabe" is obviously used to describe something that is "causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; very bad" ("deplorable").

Passage of the week: 'Japan's earthquake shifted balance of the planet'

"Japan's earthquake shifted balance of the planet" is a simply written, easily understandable, and informative piece by Liz Goodwin that covers the interesting effects of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake which hit Japan on Friday, March 11.

NASA satellite images of Japan's coast moving.
Goodwin's article provides a quick description of what the earthquake caused, which was "a rift 15 miles below the sea floor that stretched 186 miles long and 93 miles wide." Then Goodwin explains how "the Pacific tectonic plate dove under the North American plate," causing the earthquake to occur. Goodwin also points how the earthquake shifted the earth's balance:

1. Eastern Japan shifted approximately 13 feet towards North America.

2. Earth's axis shifted by 6.5 inches.

3. Shortened the day by 1.6 microseconds.

4. Sank Japan downward by about two feet.

Aside from the interesting facts about the earth's shifted balance that Japan's earthquake caused, I also liked one piece of information included in the article that I had not known before: the earthquake that hit Japan on March 11 "is overwhelmingly the best-recorded great earthquake ever" (Goodwin).

Of course, Goodwin made sure to explain why Japan's recent earthquake was deemed "the best-recorded great earthquake ever" by Lucy Jones, chief scientist for the Multi-Hazards project at the U.S. Geological Society: after an earthquake struck Japan in 1995, the country installed high-tech sensors to observe even the slightest movements, which enabled scientists to calculate last week's earthquake down to the inch.

Catch of the week: 'Most Danbury area officials surprised by steroid ring arrests'

As I was working on an editorial piece for Kendra's Two Cents blog, I noticed that one of the articles I was using as a reference had an ambiguous headline: "Most Danbury area officials surprised by steroid ring arrests". I already knew what the story was behind the headline since I had come across the article while clicking through related News Times articles, so I did not pay that much attention to how the headline was written at first, until I was typing out my blog post's work cited.

The way the headline is written makes it seem like the Danbury area officials are surprised by who the arrestees are, but that is not true. The article is about the arrest of an alleged steroids ring that sold performance-enhancing drugs to high school athletes in the Danbury area. By reading the headline, readers would think that the Danbury area officials are surprised by who was arrested, but in reality, they are surprised that local high school athletes are reported to have been among their customers.

Word of the week: "crematorium"

Source: "Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan" by Jay Alabaster and Todd Pitman, 14 March 2011.

Sentence: "A tide of bodies washed up along Japans' coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami."

Definition(s): noun a crematory → "crematory" noun a place, as a funeral establishment, at which cremation is done. → "cremate" verb (used with object) to reduce (a dead body) to ashes by fire, especially as a funeral right.

The Elements of Style: Chapter 4

Chapter four of The Elements of Style covers over 20 words and expressions that are commonly misspelled, such as "all right," and misused, such as "aggravate" versus "irritate" and "allusion" versus "illusion."

Out of the words and expressions presented in this chapter, the two that I most relate to, since I always use (or misuse, according to the book) and misspell are: "all right" and "and/or."

According to the book, "all right" is "idiomatic in familiar speech as a detached phrase in the sense "Agreed," or "Go ahead," or "O.K." [and is] properly written as two words all right." I have a tendency to misspell this phrase as "alright," because I've seen it spelt that way so many times and just picked up on spelling it that way. From now on I will try to spell the phrase correctly.

"And/or" is "a device, or shortcut, that damages a sentence and often leads to confusion or ambiguity" (Strunk & White 40), and based on this definition that the book gives, I constantly damage my sentence by using this device or shortcut. Chapter four provides an example of a way that a writer can properly write a sentence that he or she would ordinarily use an "and/or" in:
Wrong: "First of all, would an honor system successfully cut down on the amount of stealing and/or cheating?"
Right: "First of all, would an honor system reduce the incidence of stealing or cheating or both?"
Personally, I find the "right" example to be more confusing than the "wrong" one, but according to The Elements of Style, it is less ambiguous and confusing. I will try to cut down on my "and/or" usage, even though I believe the phrase can sometimes be used in sentences in an unambiguous or confusing way.

The Elements of Style: Chapter 3

Chapter three of The Elements of Style covers: colloquialisms (slang words or phrases), exclamations, headings, hyphens, margins, numerals, parentheses, quotations, references, syllabication, and titles.

I found the excerpt about the use of colloquialisms or slang words/phrases interesting. I have always thought that using such language was not acceptable in proper writing, but this chapter encourages writers to use it. However, the chapter says to "not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks [because it] put[s] on airs, as though you were invited the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better" (Strunk & White). I think I will try to incorporate colloquialisms or slang words/phrases into a future writing of mine to see how it goes.

The Elements of Style: Chapter 2

Chapter two of The Elements of Style  covers eleven rules on the structure of written work: choosing a structural suitable design, making paragraphs the units of composition, using an active voice instead of passive, putting statements in positive form, excluding needless words, avoiding a multiple loose sentences within a paragraph, expressing coordinate ideas in similar forms, keeping related words together, maintaining one tense in summaries, placing the emphatic words of a sentence at the end, and using definite, specific, concrete language. Just like chapter one, this chapter also provides correct and incorrect examples that pertain to the rules.

I found the rule on keeping related words together interesting and beneficial. Sometimes I sometimes find myself wording sentences in strange ways and I know that it can lead to confusion and ambiguity. In order for a writer to fix this problem, they must "bring together the words and groups of words that are related in thought and keep apart those that are not so related" (Strunk & White 28), and this is something I will try to keep in mind in the future.

The Elements of Style: Chapter 1

Chapter one of The Elements of Style provides eleven rules of English usage, which include: four rules for comma usage, using apostrophes to form the possessive singular of nouns, colon usage, using dashes to distinguish an abrupt break or interruption, noun and verb agreement, making sure not to break sentences into two, using proper cases of nouns, and making sure that a particular phrase at the beginning of a sentence refers to the grammatical subject. The chapter also provides correct and incorrect examples pertaining to each rule.

Although I already learned everything that this chapter explains (in other words, I didn't learn anything new), I do  occasionally find myself making mistakes when I write that do not follow the rules in this chapter. In the future, I will try to pay closer attention while I write and keep the eleven rules provided in this chapter in mind.