Uninformed Comment

A new sub-editor at The Guardian?

Posted in Bad journalism, Grammar & usage, Humour, In the news, Internet by uninformedcomment on May 4, 2009

One of the advantages of using the web for writing articles is that you can honour Tim Berners-Lee (or, if you prefer the underdog, Robert Cailliau) and insert hyperlinks in your text to direct readers elsewhere for more information.

My guess is that the role of creating those links is undertaken by sub-editors at The Guardian and, furthermore, that a new one has just joined the team.  Perhaps he (or she – we do need a gender-neutral word for the personal pronoun)  is young and fresh out of college, or maybe a welder, made redundant in the recession.  What is clear, however, is that he or she is at that awkward stage when you’ve learned the what but not the why.

Take two articles from today’s G2 supplement.  The first up is Charlie Brooker’s amusing lament on lack of control, which contains exactly one hyperlink I can find – for the words “swine flu” – which points to a helpful collection of Guardian news articles about the virus.  Who exactly needs clarification on that term?  Are there people who only read the funny bits, and who are so far unaware of the porcine plague that’s Sweeping Our Nation?  Or is it for future uninformed generations studying the texts of The Venerable Charlie in order to write an essay on “Life In The Year 2009”?  Is it right that our descendants will have forgotten that but remember Sars (also present, but unlinked)?

The second article is Sam Wollaston’s review of some TV programmes.  As far as I can tell, this too only contains one hyperlink – for the word “television”.  Again, it points to a Guardian page; this time about television, of course.  So presumably, a significant proportion of the projected readership will be quite familiar with terms like “pug”, “Papillon” and “salami”, but will be saying to themselves “what’s this here ‘television’ thing, then, eh?”.  While reading a TV review.

Thanks for the clarification, guys!

Thanks for the clarification, guys!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this.  In fact, my guess is that the gentle folks at The Guardian simply wish to remind us of the fact that they do indeed have separate pages about swine flu and television.  And I’ll guess that the sub-editor in question actually knows a hell of a lot more than I do about the online publishing biz.   All the same, I’m grateful for this little “WTF?” and the ability to feel slightly smug for a short time.  It’s not often someone like me gets the chance.

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