Monday, April 26, 2010

Speak Now Against the Day [apologies to William Faulkner]: an open letter to the Plain Dealer editor

Dear Ms Goldberg,

I want to thank you for collecting and posting all of the comments on your website allegedly entered by some person or persons logged into a Justice Center computer assigned to Judge Saffold's courtroom. I read every one of the comments and was absolutely riveted by the breadth of the subjects covered, the writer[s]’s audacity, tendentiousness, lack of charity and general ignorance. After reading them I was convinced that no jurist could have authored most of those entries because of their generally puerile nature and their grammar school spelling. But that aside, I am writing you for a different reason.

I am a faithful reader of your print product, one of a vanishing breed, I fear. I am an addicted Cleveland sports fan, and have been since the days of Otto Graham, Bill Willis and Marion Motley; Bob Lemon, Larry Doby and Luke Easter. For some time now I have felt assaulted by your sportswriters. They have offended me to the point where a few months ago I start cataloging their assaults just to have some proof should I ever explode and need to defend myself.

I have nonetheless been reluctant to write about it for several reasons. I know you and your publisher have so many more serious challenges to deal with. And our community, which your paper covers with increasing superficiality, also has many more serious issues than today’s lament.

But then I was reading an online book review in which the reviewer called his subject “the worst-edited book put out by a reputable publisher that I have ever read.” The reason for this, he concluded, was that the book had a defined but limited audience, and “using a competent editor to correct [the many] grammatical errors and malapropisms” was not fiscally beneficial. Ergo, the publisher dissed the readership. And that made me decide to write this letter.

I prefer to think that, unlike that book publisher, you respect your readers but that as a California transplant, you just don’t read about your adopted city’s sports. So I conclude that you have not seen these egregious examples of the sloppy and/or ignorant writing that occurs almost daily in Section D:

Brian Windhorst

There’s plenty of other reasons, but that rational right there is one of the reasons for the impasse.

He already has been out a month and will miss significant more time.

“Also well known, however, was how his competitive drive carried over off the court. Whether it was trying to hit a baseball or his gambling habits, be it at casinos or on the golf course.

The Cavs were handed another defeat Wednesday night in a game they were thoroughly outplayed.

Doug Lesmerises

Though road teams can easily whither, the momentum can be easily swung the opposite way by tough-minded teams.

Paul Hoynes

Could have Peralta have paid a little more attention to the sirens going off around him? …

Bud Shaw


Mary Kay Cabot

feint of heart”

good for both he and linebacker”

Who’s for whose and it’s for its appear almost as frequently as team logos:

ü “It’s running game struggled most of the night.”

ü “Hafner’s contract … carries it’s own kind of weight.”

ü “Duke is playing in its 15th Final Four, it’s 11th under Krzyzewski, …”

I am sure you agree that most of these are sore thumb errors to any competent editor. Your sports section lists five editors. Do the editors not read the copy either before it goes to press or after it appears in print? [Maybe you could reassign Kevin O’Brien here and solve two problems at once!]

What amazes me about this is that Sports is probably the best-read section of your paper. It has more stories and with more pages than the Metro, Business, or Arts & Living sections. Judging by the volume of online comments on major stories regarding the Browns, Cavs, and Indians, your sports readers are the paper’s most devoted.

The problem is becoming contagious, by the way, migrating to writing that appears only online. It also seems to have affected virtually every sportswriter except Bill Livingston [who seems to find a locution he likes and then write a whole column just so he can use it], and the indefatigable Terry Pluto, your most incisive sports and faith reporter. Tony Grossi, Elton Alexander and Mary Schmitt are pretty good, also. But even good writers can in haste drop a letter or misspell a word, and their typos go uncorrected.

The last time I called a problem to your attention — the conscious failure to mention a major candidate for an important race [here]— you addressed it online within four hours and in print the next day. It may take a little longer to correct this problem, but I am sure you will get it handled.

After all, neither you nor I want to see a headline on that glorious June day that says

“Cavs When NBA Tittle!!!”


Richard T. Andrews