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Graphic Ignorance

TV networks’ graphics departments have long been out of control with their intrusive cluelessness.

After 9/11, many cable channels initiated a constant “crawl” of news at the bottom of the screen. The spellbinding stream of words, slow and endless, is perversely distracting.

But if you run a news channel, shouldn’t credibility be a front-burner concern? Shaky language skills for all to see raise serious questions about your standards and practices. Are you stupid, or do you just think we are? Who put manic ignoramuses in charge of your graphics department?

The examples that follow all happened in recent months:

• An ABC affiliate, thinking mischievous has four syllables, spelled it “mischievious.” Another ABC graphic said, “Wake Forrest,” then proved it was no fluke with “Angeles National Forrest.”

• An NBC affiliate came up with “To good to be true.” We’re still taught about to, too, and two, aren’t we? Maybe it was Bring Your First-Grader to Work Day.

• PBS is “TV for smart people,” but misspelling your guests’ names isn’t smart. The network fecklessly spelled veteran comic actor Dan Aykroyd’s name “Ackroyd.”

• Fox News Channel, not to be outdone, displayed “Kyber Pass” for hours. This strategic mountain pass, a key supply route for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is spelled “Khyber.” Look, you don’t guess at stuff like this. You have to look it up.

Fox also fell into a common trap with “wrecking havoc”—the proper phrase is wreaking havoc. And Fox embarrassed itself with “embarassed.” In “alledged embassy bomber,” it earned an F by adding a second d to alleged. A superfluous i in “How has the president faired?” meant fare thee well, credibility.

• CNN joined the party with “theif” and “Iranian peoples’ belief.” Put that apostrophe where it belongs, would you? And CNN might have won the knucklehead sweepstakes with this bizarre bulletin: “Houses OKs climate change.” Where do you begin with that one? It’s an inspired fusion of horrid grammar and utter meaninglessness.

Why do TV networks, some of them scrutinized around the world, undermine themselves with sloppy grammar, spelling, and punctuation? What unholy mix of arrogance, recklessness, and cynicism is at work when words onscreen, the touchstone of a TV network’s fundamental competence, are put in the care of buffoons?

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Speaking of meaninglessness. . .

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