Monday, September 1, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch part 15

We begin September with a pop quiz for Harold.

What is the name of the organization that hosted the sailboat races in Monterey this weekend?
A) The Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club (as stated in the Herald's page 1 photo caption).

B) The Monterey Bay Yacht Club (as stated in the subheading introducing the page 1 article).

C) The Monterey Yacht Club (as stated in the article, when it finally gets mentioned near the end).

The correct answer is A. There is no such thing as the Monterey Bay Yacht Club or the Monterey Yacht Club.

Oh Harold, it's sad to see a once great local newspaper become so incompetent so quickly.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch part 14

The same rookie Herald reporter who gave us Boo-Boo #13 a few days ago has now given us #14. It was located on page A4 of the August 28th issue. The article was about the dedication of a bench by the Carmel post office to honor the late Carmel cartoonist Bill Bates.

As every Carmelite knows, some of Bill Bates' cartoons have graced the walls of the Carmel post office for decades, save for a brief period of time in 2006. On Thursday the Herald printed this explanation for the hiatus:
"Bates' cartoons were taken down from the post office when an art gallery complained it should have the right to hang its artwork there."
I don't know where the reporter got that information, because that's not what happened. To my knowledge no commercial business in Carmel ever claimed the right to display its merchandise at the public post office. 

What really happened was that a US Postal Service "retail standardization team" visited the post office and set plans in place to update the decor of the place to conform to postal service standards. The Bates cartoons were determined to be non-conforming decorations and were removed.

And that's not all. The standardization team also decreed that the old style brass mail boxes with combination locks were to be replaced with modern stainless steel (or was it aluminum?) boxes with keyed locks.

Both of these changes prompted an angry uproar from the townsfolk who liked their old fashioned post office just fine and wanted to preserve its historic character. And how dare they remove Bates' cartoons! To Carmelites, these changes were a huge insult to community traditions.

After city hall got involved the USPS brass backed down. Many of the cartoons went back up on the walls, and the old mailboxes were spared. 

That's what really happened. A local reporter or editor with some institutional knowledge, or a competent rookie who knew how to verify information, should have known that. Fortunately, we have the Carmel Pine Cone to tell the true story this week.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch part 13

Hey kids! We went one whole day without finding any careless errors in the Herald, but today we found a doozy.

There are three problems with this article from page B1 of Saturday's paper. 

Let's start with the headline. It's just plain wrong. The gas explosion in Carmel last March was not a pipeline explosion. Gas leaked into a house and the house exploded, not the pipe.

Second, the article says "An electric crew was working nearby on a natural gas pipeline." (See the red underline above.) Wrong again. I'm pretty sure PG&E doesn't assign electric crews to work on gas lines or gas crews to work on electric lines. According to reports written at the time, it was a "welding crew." It's a sad state of affairs when the reporter doesn't know his subject well enough to know the difference between electricity and gas. That goes double for his AWOL out-of-town editor.

The third issue I have with this article may put me on slightly less stable ground. Very slightly. Above, I circled a questionable sentence in blue, which says the cause of the explosion has not been determined nor is it known whether there is any connection between the work crew's activities and the house explosion.

Technically that may be correct. I don't think any firm conclusions about the cause have yet been documented. But the wording here implies that the cause is still a complete mystery, which it isn't.

Had the writer (or a local editor with some institutional memory - which we no longer have) bothered to check the Herald's own archives they would have found this article from May 5th which said....

The crew was working on a steel gas pipe, but punctured a plastic pipe inside the steel pipe. The plastic pipe inside the other pipe wasn't "reflected on the map(s)," the report says.

Unnoticed, the leaking gas likely traveled down the pipe, into the soil and got into the home through its sewer lines. The pressurized gas got into the home living space, and about 40 to 60 minutes after the plastic pipe was first punctured, there was "a quick, loud bang."

A pilot light on a stove in the home likely touched off the explosion.
The March 21st Carmel Pine Cone reported much the same thing:
The leak that led to the explosion occurred when a PG&E worker tapped into a gas main he thought was just steel, but it actually contained a plastic insert. As he worked on the line, gas leaked between the steel shell and the plastic lining and followed the main into the home.

“The area of space between the steel and the plastic allows gas to go anywhere,” [PG&E Vice President Kevin] Knapp explained.
Like evolution, this may still be "just a theory" but the evidence points strongly to a direct connection between the PG&E crew's activities and the explosion. To suggest otherwise without providing the known facts is sloppy reporting.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch parts 11&12

Careless errors keep rolling off the Herald presses like water off a ducks back.

Today the Herald ran a story about the Monterey Downs EIR on page 2, and continued on page 4. The segment on page 4 said it was continued from...wait for 4.

And while we're at it, the AWOL editor missed this typo from Kenneth Peterson's financial advice column on page A7. Of course, the writer made the error, but this is the sort of thing editors are supposed to catch, the mistakes spell-check can't. (Note to Mr. Miller: sight=vision, site=place.)

These two Boo-Boos were in the A section. I haven't even gotten around to reading the B section yet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch parts 9&10

I thought I might overlook the Herald Boo-Boo I saw on Tuesday August 19th. It was just a small formatting error and I didn't think it worth pointing out. I changed my mind when I saw Wednesday's paper.

Letters to the editor normally have the name of the writer at the end and the name is in italics. This is followed by a blank line before the title of any following letters. The first letter Tuesday had neither italics nor a space. Here's how it looked.

Click image to enlarge.

Then on Wednesday a letter had more than just the name italicized, but the last two and a half lines of the letter, too!

Click image to enlarge.

It would appear that the people who put the paper together aren't checking their work - probably because they're spread too thin and don't have time. And it would seem there's nobody to double-check their work to ensure that careless errors don't make it into the final product. As we've seen over the past weeks and months, quality control has gone out the window.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Robin Williams

One of the biggest news stories last week was the tragic suicide of comedian Robin Williams. There is no question that the world lost a great comic genius. His improvisational skills were unparalleled, and he made a lot of people laugh, including me.

Many of his fans, along with other Hollywood stars he preformed with, have talked about his warmth, passion, and humor, and they were uniformly stunned that a man who was so delightful and had everything one could want, would just kill himself like that.

But when I read the news, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Sad, definitely, but not surprised.

Although Robin Williams could make me laugh, he also creeped me out a little bit. Not intentionally, of course, but whenever I watched him I always felt a little uneasy. I sensed he had a dark side. It was nothing I could put my finger on or in any way define. Just a vague sense that deep inside of him something was terribly amiss. So while I found him to be entertaining, I never became a big fan. Something I can't define about him disturbed me enough that I never felt drawn to him as many people were.

When Mrs. Doubtfire came out, a movie which had some sad undertones along with its delightful humor, I tried to explain this feeling to someone but they looked at me like I was from Mars. So I'm wondering if anyone else picked up on it, or am I the only one?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Herald Boo-Boo Watch part 8

This was just a little Boo-Boo, the kind that might slip by any writer from time to time. It was in an August 14th story about a new ordinance in Sand City prohibiting camping on the beach. In one paragraph was a double negative reference to the "no anti-camping law." 

I've done this sort of thing before. I'll start to write something one way, then go back and write it another way, and forget to delete the unneeded words. So the writer probably started with "no camping law" then decided to make it "anti-camping law" but he forgot to delete the "no" resulting in a double negative that means the opposite of what was intended.

It's quite understandable that the writer missed his mistake. That's one reason why newspapers have editors, to catch mistakes before the news is printed. But as I've noted in previous Mental Notes, the Herald doesn't have its own editor anymore, and things like this are slipping through the cracks.

Click image to enlarge.