Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsYou Don't Say

When the editor goes AWOL

The New York Times

You may have thought from reading past posts that it is only Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman for whom The New York Times has abandoned editing. Not so. There is evidence of a slack rein on the regular staff as well. 

I place in evidence this paragraph published in The Times earlier this week:

The Fort Lee traffic jam scandal has unleashed a wintry mix of subpoenas, tortured apologies and fresh allegations against Mr. Christie, a Republican, and potentially put a deep freeze on his presidential chances. But the same revelations have had a warming effect on Ms. Buono, the Democratic nominee who badly lost to Mr. Christie in the November election and bitterly complained about the betrayal of Democrats who barely lifted a finger to help her. Ms. Buono has gone from media piñata, Democratic pariah and Keystone Candidate to the Cassandra of the Christie scandal, whose October warnings about “the unexplained closure of two lanes starting in Fort Lee” went unheeded by most fellow Democrats.

The "wintry mix" metaphor, tying coyly into the unpleasant weather the Northeast has been experiencing is our early warning in this paragraph. Unfortunately, the writer, having started on a Metaphor, is unable to let go of it, dragging in "deep freeze" and the contrasting "warming trend." What you want to do with a metaphor is to hit it once and keep moving. You are not Milton constructing an epic simile.
Then, as if to repent of this excess at the beginning of the paragraph, the writer starts throwing metaphors around like so many snowballs: "pinata," "pariah," "Keystone Candidate," and "Cassandra." "Keystone Candidate" is too specific to work tandem with the generics "pinata" and "pariah," but it does alliterate with "Cassandra."
Now, class, if you will, place your hand over the boldfaced paragraph and tell me what the writer said. 
Anyone? Bueller?
Here we have the trap of Fancy Writing. The author, straining to be clever, obscures rather than illuminates his meaning. 
And, as a corollary, we see the importance of editing, which might have saved this author from himself. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading