Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogger Q&A No.6: John E. McIntyre

Another in a series of interviews with bloggers who focus on language and journalism issues. Today's Q&A is with John McIntyre, a former president of ACES, the assistant managing editor for copy desks at the Baltimore Sun and author of a blog called You Don't Say on the Sun's web site.

Q.When did you start blogging?

A.In late December 2005.

Q. What's your purpose or motivation to blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?

A. To add a bit of content to The Sun’s Web site that isn’t duplicated
elsewhere. To address questions about language and usage that come from
readers. To write about subjects that I wasn’t seeing addressed in
other blogs, or to add my views on points that were addressed elsewhere.
To vent my spleen.

Q. Where do you get your topics?

A. Often from reading my own newspaper. Issues that other copy editors raise or things that I talk about in workshops on editing. And, of course, comments and suggestions from readers of the blog lead to new postings.

Q.What has provoked the most response from readers?

A. A posting on our test for copy desk applicants that included some sample questions. I innocently included “Who wrote ‘The Iliad’?” and got a swarm of posted comments and messages on the Homeric question.

Q. Do you know who your readers are and if so, do you have much interaction with them? Anything interesting to say about them? If you know, are your readers language or journalism experts or just regular folks?

A. Response to two questions combined: Hard to tell who’s reading. I just get a raw count of unique hits each week, average about a little over 800 — not an overwhelming number. I have a few local readers who communicate, and a number of colleagues in journalism who follow the site. Oddly, even some members of the Sun staff look at it. And I am encouraged, and flattered, by praise from my fellow bloggers, for whose opinions and judgment I have a profound respect.

Q. Do you try to post on a regular schedule or as topics arise?

A. I try to post twice a week.

Q. Do you think we should think about linking in some fashion to deliver language or other advice by e-mail or share content more regularly? (This is completely off the top of my head and did not inspire this Q&A.)

A. It would be nice if the American Copy Editors Society could link language blogs and resources to its Web site, but I know that creating and maintaining such a resource is laborious and time-consuming. I follow the ACES discussion board closely, and it is refreshing to see all the viewpoints. I think, though, that a slightly different approach, a kind of uber-blog on which a panel of language bloggers would be available to answer questions put to them, would be valuable.

Q. Do you consider yourself web savvy or up to date on technology? Will we
still be blogging in five years or will technology completely replace
this method of communication?

A. The Sun uses TypePad for all the staff blogs, and it is simple but irritating. It arbitrarily changes type size or repositions elements, and I don’t know enough about the coding to remedy the problems quickly.
And if I did, the coding is on the screen in type so small as to drive me
blind. No, I am not Web savvy and don’t expect to be anytime soon. My
function is to be a cranky old guy snickered at by the young.

Q. How much time do you spend each week on your blog?

A. The postings are all short, so none ever takes more than an hour or so.

Q. What are your favorite language web sites or blogs?

A. I check Nicole Stockdale’s “A Capital Idea,” Doug Fisher’s “Common Sense Journalism,” Bill Walsh’s “Blogslot,” Fred Vultee’s “headsuptheblog,” and, um, Pam Robinson’s “Words at Work” ever day to see whether there is something new. I’ve also bookmarked Andy Bechtel’s “The Editor’s Desk,” John Rains’ “Notes from a Writing Coach” and “Language Log” (to check for rude remarks about copy editors). I enjoy Jan Freeman’s column in The Boston Globe.
The Testy Copy Editors bulletin board often provides fodder. And I periodically troll around to see what things I’ve overlooked.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A.Blogging is turning out to be one more means to draw editors out of isolation and provide occasions to sort out issues and arrive at common understandings.

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