Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who's lead was better?

January 30, 2011.
The Times of India’s Pune print edition has this long sentence as the lead of a front-page story:
After a prolonged delay of well over two months, followed by stringent observations of the Bombay High Court, the CBI on Saturday filed a criminal case against a section of army personnel, defence estate officials and retired and serving bureaucrats of the Maharashtra government for their alleged involvement in the multicrore Adarsh Housing scam.
Words in one single sentence of a single paragraph: 54. Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) was 4.7 and Flesch Kinkaid Grade level (FKG) : 26.

I felt the reporter was very anxious to provide the readers everything at one go, in one sentence. I cross checked if there was some attempt to edit in ToI’s e-paper and was pleasantly surprised that there indeed was editing for reading ease.
Have a look:
The CBI filed a criminal case against a section of serving and retired bureaucrats of the Maharashtra government, army personnel and defence estate officials for their alleged involvement in the multicrore Adarsh housing society scam on Saturday. The step, coming after a delay of over two months, follows stringent observations of the Bombay High Court over an FIR not being filed in the case.
FRE thus improved upto 32.9 and FKG to 16.6. The simple trick was the sentence was split into two sentences, and the story began with the operative part rather than with the background of the story.  

This is how DNA reporter wrote the lead of the same story:
The CBI Saturday registered an FIR in the Adarsh housing society scam. Among the 13 accused were former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, former state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, three senior retired army officers, and an ex-collector, according to sources in the investigating agency.
FRE was 11.8 and FKG 16.9
And The Hindustan Times:  
Ten days after the Bombay high court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) why it had not registered a First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the Adarsh housing society scam, the agency booked 13 persons in the matter on Saturday. Former chief minister Ashok Chavan’s name has been mentioned in the FIR, though he is not among the 13 accused, CBI sources said.
This single para has 65 words in two sentences. FRE:. 42.3 and FKG: 15.4.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Readability Test result

A Mumbai daily has the following lead for an important story:

The state government on Thursday declared its willingness to hand over the Yashwant Sonawane murder case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) even as the central government announced an ex-gratia payment of `25 lakh to the slain additional collector's family and immediate measures to curb adulteration of petroleum products.

If you run Readability Tests through this text, offered by MS Word, you have the following results:

Number of Words: 50, Paragraph: 1, Number of sentences: 1, Flesch Reading Ease: 00, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 26

In simple words, this means that the text is difficult for the readers to understand quickly. Can we not split and rephrase the sentence as follows:

The state government on Thursday declared its willingness to hand over the Yashwant Sonawane murder case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The central government, in the meanwhile, announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 25 lakh to the family of slain additional collector.  It promised to take immediate measures to curb adulteration of petroleum products.
Run the Readability test, and see the result:

Number of Words: 56, Paragraph: 1 Number of sentences: 3, Flesch Reading Ease: 35.3, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 12.9

The paragraph has three sentences which has 23 words in the first sentence, 21 in the second and 12 in the third.
The test indicates that the lead is easier to understand.

Indulged or engaged?

Mahesh Vijapurkar has this advice for reporters and sub-editors:

In its January 28, 2011 Mumbai edition, page 3, the Daily News & Analysis (DNA) has an item headlined Senior citizen gets 2 conmen arrested for cheating her. It quotes a policeman saying she “indulged” the conman “in talks”. Both are not appropriate in the context used.

  • Indulged – this verb is all about letting the others have their way, like with a child, or do something you know would give you pleasure, like in eating a sweet to which you are partial. The reporter should have used the word engaged.
  • In talks – this has an altogether different meaning that mere talking or be in an ordinary conversation. Two companies can be in talks, a series of exchanges over a period of time. Two countries, for instance, India and Pakistan can be engaged in talks over the issue of visas. But the woman who wanted to con the conmen into an arrest had only engaged them in talk.
Newspapers have sub-editors just to avoid this kind of confusion in usage. Because two – the premise being that the  reporter and the desk both -  cannot go wrong at the same time. But they did.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mergers and acquisitions to widen the gap?

Senior journalist and media educator Mahesh Vijapurkar offers an interesting instance of lack of care and caution on the part of the reporter and sub-editor:

A page- one second lead story in The Economic Times, Mumbai edition of January 26, 2011 is Rishad Premji to lead Wipro's buyout team. The story's intro runs thus:

"Rishad Premji, Wipro's new strategy chief, has been given the additional responsibility of leading the company's M&A pursuits as India's third-biggest software exporters seeks to widen its gap with aggressive aggressive rivals by identifying the bext big bets."
Excuse me? Mergers and acquisitions to widen the gap? Normally, it would be reduce the gap with the competitors ahead of it. One can widen the gap without a strategy chief having to do anything. Mere complacency would do fine, thank you! 

As explained later in the copy, Wipro would like to regain growth. Unless the intent is to increase the gap between Wipro and the fourth-biggest software company. Why should it strain to stay third in the pecking order and not second instead of keeping the fourth at the fourth place?

One single word and the story is at odds from what was sought to be said. 

Like I always say, care and caution helps, especially when English is not our mother tongue.

Do we witness weather?

 Mahesh Vijapurkar has pointed out:
The Times of India’s has a story, Mumbai sees longest winter in its January 26, 2011 Mumbai edition highlighting how the temperature scarcely went up above 15 degrees Celsius during the month. In its lead / intro, the paper says “It is rare to find rare temperatures in the city even at the end of January, but this is what Mumbaikars have been witnessing
You see or witness snow drifting down, the rain pelt on the window but the temperatures are at best felt or experienced. In the headline the sees does not appear inappropriate but in the text, the witnessing does appear odd. Because, you feel the cold, you sense it, you experience it. But do you see or witness it? No, you don’t.

The headline in blue at the start of this story reproduced here is hyperlinked but the link does not open.