Monday, June 26, 2006

One possessive or two?

The idea of joint or separate possession (OK, forget for a moment that that sounds like the introduction to a law review article) seems to befuddle writers and editors rather regularly. The guidelines:
  • If the two or more parties in question jointly own or do or whatever something, just make it possessive on the last name.
  • If those involved each has a separate, but perhaps similar, thing going, but you want to talk about them in the sense of togetherness, both get the possessive treatment.
Thus, this from a Wall Street Journal story about digital cameras needs a tweak:
The newcomers will need to battle for acceptance among professional photographers and hard-core enthusiasts because of Canon and Nikon's brand strength and their extensive selection of lenses.

Canon and Nike each have different brands here; they aren't joint marketing anything. So:
The newcomers will need to battle for acceptance among professional photographers and hard-core enthusiasts because of Canon's and Nikon's brand strength and their extensive selection of lenses.

Ah, togetherness. Isn't it wonderful?


At 6/26/06, 7:02 PM, Blogger Alexis said...

So I understand all of the stuff.. But I want bto be a journalist when i graduate from college Im just a kid. BUt I want to know how to get started??

At 6/27/06, 12:36 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


I don't know where you are in school now, but if your school has a paper, I would report and write for it. If not, you blog, so why not cover some things in your neighborhood and your town and put them on your blog? I'll bet there are things people care about that whatever media are around there don't cover as well as you think they should (or at all).

But the first thing to understand is why you want to get into journalism. I know a lot of students who want to do it because "I like to write" or "I'm good with people" or "I like the excitement" or "I want to change the world." All valid reasons -- and all slighty wrong.

Excitement: Journalism can be exciting -- about 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent is very exacting, very grind-it-out work, even if you are an investigative reporter.

I want to change the world: Great motivation, and every story you do affects dozens of people. Even if it's nothing more than the movie listings, people plan parts of their lives around what we tell them. But motivation without the skills to transform it into something concrete means little.

Good with people: Great and necessary skill to have, but this isn't a sales job (well, it is sort of) and you don't get a commission for each sale, other than a good feeling that maybe you've done something to help. And you're going to deal with a lot of people for whom you won't feel so great after you are done dealing with them.

I like to write: Good. But not enough. This business is not about writing, but about reporting. Writing is a tool to get the reporting out in a way that people will read or listen or watch it. Yes, the better the writing, the better your success. But you have to have something in your notebook or the camera to write about. We have enough Jayson Blairs and Janet Cookes. This is where I find many students who start out in journalism suddenly face the stark realities -- when we tell then, no, you can't just report on your friends and what you know. You have to plunge into areas and deal with people who might make you mighty uncomfortable. And you -- not the reader -- have got to make sense of all of it for the reader. I've had some come close to nervous breakdowns over that when they realized this, truly, is what journalism is.

So get out in your neighborhood, get out in your town, get out of your car and walk and talk to people. Find out what is happening, what is interesting. Read -- newspapers and books. Watch -- and listen -- to things like CBS' "Sunday Morning" and longer-form news stories like NPR's. Learn from them how to take the information you gather and tell a good story.

That's the exciting part. That's journalism.


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