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Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

No Lectures, Please

‘Podium’ and ‘lectern’ are often interchangeable

There’s an old joke among journalists—OK, mostly among copy editors—about a passage that says that the speaker “stood behind the... More

Incomplete

Why use “completely”?

“Completely” is probably one of the most completely superfluous words in the English language. Too often, it’s used to emphasize... More

Exit Strategies

Why are there so many ways to leave?

The Eskimos may—or may not—have many words for “snow,” but we English speakers certainly have a number of words to... More

Special Issue

A problematic discussion

Gene Foreman has an issue with “issues.” “I see the misuse of ‘issues’ as a synonym for ‘problems’ as part... More

Meta Data

Self, meet yourself

Lady Gaga and Elton John, two of the music world’s most self-referential and self-aware performers, sang a duet at the... More

Natural Selection

The dilemma of choices

These are tough times, and politicians have to make hard choices about how to spend the smaller amounts of money... More

Sissy Talk

“Pantywaist” has survived for nearly 100 years

If you had children in the early part of the twentieth century, you probably clothed the babies in one-piece suits,... More

Sizing It Up

‘Downsize’ upgrades itself

In a letter to CJR, Jeffrey Kaye, a freelance journalist and author, objected to some usages in recent articles about... More

Compound Interest

When you’re not quite a suspect

In the wake of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a commercial jet, we were introduced to a new term.... More

Word

When auld acquaintance be forgot

As the new year begins, we’re reeling from an overload of retrospective lists: top news stories; persons of the year;... More

Seizin’ Greetings

Tis the season for misplaced apostrophes

Pity the poor apostrophe. Even in this, the jolliest of seasons, its traditional role is misused, abused, and forgotten. As... More

Singulars Bar

Pronouns and nouns need to be monogamous—and non-sexist

Grammar is a strict matchmaker: singular subjects must be paired with singular verbs, and plural subjects can associate only with... More

Just Because

Let us count the reasons why

One reason why columns like this are written is because so many writers don’t realize when a tautology has them... More

Before the Beginning

Doing away with some pre-fixes

One of English’s favorite prefixes is “pre,” three little letters that mean “before.” It helps modify words like “nuptial,” “conception,”... More

Your Move

Chess terminology, imprecisely played

To practice politics, one must know something about strategy. Like a poker player, a politician needs to know when to... More

Foundering Flounders

When a fish is not a failure

Whenever the government announces the failure of another bank, a news outlet somewhere reports that the bank has “floundered.” Well... More

Playing Tricks

The expression ‘tricked out’ isn’t new

A review of the new “Lego Rock Band” video game mentioned one cool feature: “You can also trick out your... More

Early Bird Special

On turning the clocks back

Unless you live in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, most of Arizona, or off the grid with sundials, you turned your clocks... More

Plethora Galore

When does ‘many’ become ‘too many’?

The English language has many words for “many”: “abundance,” “multitude,” “profusion,” “a lot,” and so forth. With such a “myriad”... More

Assurance Policy

The lives of ‘insure,’ ‘ensure,’ and ‘assure’

In Washington, legislators are trying to “assure” their constituents that they are working to “ensure” that any new health-care bill... More

The ethics of The Guardian’s Whisper bombshell - It would have been a journalistic lapse not to have told readers

Gawker: The internet bully - Nick Denton’s media empire is an intellectual online fraternity that invites people to their parties only to make them buy the booze

The Washington Post short-sells a reporter’s integrity - Steven Pearlstein smears TheStreet’s Adam Feuerstein for criticizing a biotech firm

Former Sun-Times staffers react to top reporter’s resignation - “Whereas we don’t have all the answers, we have way too many questions about what happened here”

Stop trolling your readers - We know you’re only doing it for clicks


John Oliver video sweepstakes (The Awl)

“We may update this list next week to reflect Facebook shares gathered by The Awl as the result of this post, which is ultimately an elaborate excuse to embed a John Oliver video on our website”

Which news org is the most trusted? (Pew)

The answer is complicated

‘My Captivity’ (NYT Mag)

An American journalist on his two-year kidnapping in Syria

FBI faked an AP story, in Seattle Times style, to catch a suspect (Seattle Times)

“‘We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the US Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,’ said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best”

Bloggingheads

Greg Marx discusses democracy and news with Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute

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Who Owns What

The Business of Digital Journalism

A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Study Guides

Questions and exercises for journalism students.