January 9, 2001
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An article in the international section of today's New York Times reports on developments at the resort town of Punta del Este, Uruguay. "Seeing a competitive threat, in recent days Pinamar and other Argentine beech resorts have announced that they, too, welcome topless bathing," the Times reports.
Later in the dispatch, the Times informs readers that "the wealthiest sold much of their property and moved to more secluded beeches further up the coast."
A "beech" is a kind of tree. The word the Times is looking for is "beach." Maybe there was some kind of mix-up between the article from Uruguay and the one that runs on the front page under the headline "Clinton Forest Chief Acts to Stop Logging of the Oldest Trees."
Oz: The lead, front-page news article in today's New York Times begins, "Pacing before a backdrop of glittering Manhattan skyscrapers that made New York City look like Oz, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani delivered a speech last night that was an attempt to both soften his sharp edges and set a political legacy for what will be the first year of the rest of his life. Mr. Giuliani, who spoke without notes for nearly two hours to lawmakers in the ornate City Council chamber, made his most extensive proposals in education, urging an extension of the school week to Saturday and Sunday for tens of thousands of students who need extra help in science and English."
It takes 79 words and a reference to Oz before readers get a piece of policy substance. Compare this treatment to the New York Post, which offered a more straightforward treatment. The Post began its article: "Mayor Giuliani yesterday suggested opening schools on weekends."
And what is with the reference to Oz, anyway? Is the Times likening the mayor to the wizard of Oz, a little man who creates an illusion of grandeur?
What is with the psycho-babble reference to "the first year of the rest of his life"? Every year is the first year of the rest of anyone's life. That's how time works. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life," goes the cliche.
The first two paragraphs of the Times article leave readers confused about this backdrop of skyscrapers, too. Was the mayor actually outside in front of skyscrapers? How could he have been both "before a backdrop of glittering Manhattan skyscrapers" and also "in the ornate City Council chamber"? Have they installed a large plate-glass window in the ornate City Council chamber to allow a view of the skyscrapers outside? These questions are answered finally by a photograph that runs inside the metro section, showing the mayor standing inside the council chamber before, literally, a theater-style backdrop depicting the New York skyline. But readers who didn't see the photograph could easily have been confused into thinking the Times was using a less literal definition of the word backdrop.
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