Monday, January 26, 2009

Tense Confusion on N.Y. Local Newscast

During its 11 p.m. broadcast on Saturday, January 17th, Eyewitness News, which can be seen on the ABC owned and operated Channel 7 in New York City, printed a mistake in its lower-third chyron during a report on the fighting between Israel and Hamas. As you can see, highlighted in the screen shot below, Eyewitness News writers and editors became confused with the tense of the verb "to continue."

Rather than "continues," Eyewitness News should've used the word "continue" before the word "fighting," which, as you can see in this conjugation of the verb, is the indicative future tense. No, verb conjugation wasn't interesting in grade school and it's definitely not interesting now. However, professional news writers and editors should demonstrate a working knowledge of it at all times.

Wait, isn't there another mistake in the the lower-third copy? Shouldn't "ceasefire" actually be hypehenated? Not necessarily; it's a style issue. If, like the Proofreader, you're a stickler for accuracy and style, then you'd consult The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, where, on page 61, you'd see "cease-fire" is the preferred style of Times editors, so that would have been a safe choice for Eyewitness News in that situation. Not hyphenating cease-fire is a variant but accepted form of the word, so there's no infraction there. Also, judging by the amount of space in the lower-third, writers and editors may have used the variant form because it was a better fit. However, there was no excuse for using the incorrect tense of "continue." That's a mistake that simply shouldn't have been made.

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