Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Your neighborhood dollar store wants to sell you booze

OK, technically beer and wine aren't booze, but many a moment of havoc has been carried out in their name.

So it's always interesting when I ask classes what they think make up the biggest share of alcohol purveyors (I'm careful not to say liquor) just by sheet numbers: Bars, restaurants, clubs, liquor stores, supermarkets ...?

Invariably, it's bars or liquor stores that come to the front.

But take a year's worth of permit applications, as I did, from the paper's legal ads and you'll find it's convenience stores (in blue on this map)* that overwhelmingly hold the permits, most for beer and wine for off-premises consumption.

That's brought concerns from some neighborhoods who see their areas being overrun.

Now, a new entry is crowding the field -- your local dollar store.

As I was wrapping up that track-the-permits project, I noticed a steady stream of permit applications from Dolgencorp, the operating arm of Dollar General.

Now, in recent editions of my local paper, I see Family Dollar seeking beer and wine applications for 15 of its Columbia-area stores.

This is a good little story worth noting. And doing depth/enterprise reporting projects like this -- especially on a beat -- isn't hard with modern tools like Google Fusion Tables (and maps) if you just take them a day or week at a time and methodically compile the data. The resulting maps or other graphical presentations yo can produce may give you a whole new take on the data.

And much of that raw material already is in your paper or in the documents you routinely pick up on a beat.

*Green is grocery and other stores, like dollar stores. Red is bars and clubs, yellow is liquor stores and orange is restaurants. White is for things like stadiums, banquet halls, etc.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Some interesting AP style changes

Some AP style updates came out today, and while they aren't likely to create the furor that allowing "over" for "more than" did, there are a few interesting things:

Here are the changes and a few of my thoughts:

media Generally takes a plural verb, especially when the reference is to individual outlets: Media are lining up for and against the proposal. Sometimes used with a singular verb when referring to media as a monolithic group: Media is the biggest force in a presidential campaign. (adds reference to use as a singular noun)
This will drive some of my colleagues nuts. What can I say? Welcome to a long-needed recognition of modern usage (and if you want to double up on that Advil dose, remember, data is also allowed as a singular in some uses).

mezcal Clear liquor from Mexico made from a variety of agave plants. (new entry)
Two liquor entries in one update (see whisky below). Is this an acknowledgement that AP style will sometimes drive you to drink?

horchata Spanish and Mexican drink made by steeping nuts, seeds and grains, and served cool. (new entry)

nearshore waters (new entry to show nearshore is one word)

notorious, notoriety Some understand these terms to refer simply to fame; others see them as negative terms, implying being well-known because of evil actions. Be sure the context for these words is clear, or use terms like famous, prominent, infamous, disreputable, etc. (new entry)
This is AP oh-so-carefully edging toward the reality of modern usage. However, just as the enormity/enormousness distinction has been pretty much erased in modern conversational usage, it's always good for professional writers to observe the niceties.

 online petitions Be cautious about quoting the number of signers on such petitions. Some sites make it easy for the person creating the petition or others to run up the number of purported signers by clicking or returning to the page multiple times. (new entry)
Sage advice. File this under the general guidance: Take most things you find online with a grain of salt, a derivative of the almost legendary (yeah, so smite me, I used that word): If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson Use spokesperson if it is the preference of an individual or an organization. (adds spokesperson to entry)
Inevitable, really. So now we get to the weasel "preference" language. Just one more thing in the heat of battle that reporters will forget to ask and later rationalize. Just say "spokesperson," for all its ungainliness, is acceptable in all uses, let it go and leave it up to local style.

voicemail (now one word)
Welcome to 2016.

 whisky, whiskey Class of liquor distilled from grains. Includes bourbon, rye and Irish whiskey. Use spelling whisky only in conjunction with Scotch whisky, Canadian whisky and Japanese whisky. (adds Japanese whisky to those spelled whisky)
Have to amend one of my favorite quiz question. But really, if you say you want to be part of a profession with a history like ours, shouldn't you know the niceties?

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