Friday, December 24, 2010

Some Goodness, But a Lot of Weirdness

The local papers have been filling up my filing cabinet lately -- some good, some bad, some crazy-making.

Misteaks and Oversites

My copy of today's Pioneer Press front page (left) was printed with almost no ink on its yellow and magenta plates, which gave the photos a faded look, as if the page had been left out in the sun for a while. The photo of two women and a man at top right almost looks like a hand-tinted black and white print.

Pioneer Press 12-24-10 front page compared to the sports front page
For comparison, check out the basketball player at the top of the page -- it's the same guy shown on the cover of the sport section (right) in all his tawny glory. I love these minor errors in printing. They remind me that humans are involved.

Maryanna Manfred obit with headline Maryanna Manfred was editor in own right
I guess the Star Tribune obit writers didn't get the memo that it's sexist (and therefore, you know, offensive) to say a woman did something "in her own right." Yes, it's important to include that Maryanna's husband was Frederick Manfred, but do the words "in her own right" need to be in either the headline or lead? They're not only sexist; they're redundant.

David Brooks op-ed with box for his photo empty
A missing person on the Pioneer Press op-ed page a few days ago... David Brooks.... paging David Brooks.

Article headline Pants, dessert cones, 2011 Santa Fe models among recalls
The PiPress's consumer watchdog periodically notifies readers about recalled products. These brief stories often carry headlines combining a list of products that would make Marcel Duchamp a smile. (Okay, this isn't a mistake or an oversight... but it is amusing.)

Get in the Spirit of Consuming

It's hard to be shocked at the way consumerism is flogged as Christmas approaches, but here are a couple of particularly notable examples.

Macy's ad with Believe headline and six boxes of Frango mints
This Macy's ad combines the store's general holiday shopping theme "Believe" with a photo of Frango mints, which used to be a Christmas staple at Marshall Fields' stores before they were bought by Macy's. Frangos are a seasonal treat many look forward to, but they seem quite odd to me in juxtaposition with the quasi-religious word "Believe."

Of course, that theme seems a bit off altogether, when applied to a bunch of people shopping for stuff they don't need.

Pull quote reading If I need to sell my soul to save 5 percent, I'm going to do it
I cringed when I saw this pull-quote in the Star Tribune a few days ago. I have no criticism of the Strib for running it: It's both perfectly grammatical and reflective of what one shopper had to say as he waited in a pre-Christmas line to buy a T.V. with a screen bigger than some of the walls in my house. And I assume the editor who picked it for such prominent placement had a few thoughts about this guy's intellectual depth.

But what an extra-fine example of unconscious consumerism. Maybe that guy from Plymouth is ready for a treat to finish off his day of shopping...

McDonald's billboard with photo of beautiful whipped cream and caramel topped paper cup and headline Joy. Now in Liquid Form
I took this photo recently, and I've been saving it, trying to articulate why this billboard bothers me so much. Maybe it's something about a multinational corporation combining an unrealistic photo with one of our few remaining authentic words in order to sell sugar and caffeine. "Joy" is an inexpressible emotion, felt at the peak moments of life, and I can only shake my head that McDonald's has reduced it to this.

Better Photo Selection = More Information

Yesterday, a St. Paul baby was inadvertently abducted when his parents' car was stolen after he was left alone in it for a few moments. He was found, unharmed, about 90 minutes later.

The unbelievably stupid car thief ditched the car, but before that, s/he removed the boy and his car seat and left him by the trash cans outside an apartment building -- far from where anyone would find him quickly. The child was not wearing a coat or hat; it was about 20°F at the time.

Pioneer Press article with large photo of an Asian man standing between two garages by a trash can
The Pioneer Press coverage (with photo by Ginger Pinson showing the spot where the boy was left) gave a thorough recounting of how the child was found, including multiple quotes from Sai Xiong, the man who found him. The photo itself was key to getting a complete picture of just how out of the way the spot was -- and therefore just how stupid and callous the car thief was.

Xiong, pictured above, had gone out for a cigarette and heard a baby crying. He searched all around the area until finding the car seat, which had been left with the child facing away from any possible viewer, in a passageway between two garages that leads to a grilling area.

The Star Tribune's coverage, on the other hand, focused on the parents and child:

Star Tribune photo of a young Asian man hugging and kissing a baby by a Christmas tree
This heart-warming photo supports the narrative that the parents love their child and were not neglectful, but it gives no information about what happened to the child. And what could have easily happened to him if Xiong hadn't heard the baby crying in the hard-to-find location.

Score one for the PiPress. Plus an afterthought: This may be the first child to be saved by a cigarette.

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