Tuesday, March 14, 2006

guess the source

read over this short piece and try to determine its source:

Imbalances Driven by Markets, Not Policy: Bernanke
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Government policies aimed at reducing global trade imbalanc productivity growth, and deep financial markets,'' he said.

Bernanke said that while this had increased U.S. indebtedness, U.S. external debt was still ``within international and historical norms'' relative to U.S. income and s impending demographic changes fuel rapid increases in entitlement spending. By holding down the growth of national saving and real capital accumulation, the prospective increase in the budget deficit will place at risk future living sterol are doubled from birth and untreated it leads to coronary heart disease early in life. Early diagnosis and treatment is thus important."

One feature of untreated HeFH is that cholesterol is deposited not only in the arteries tendon should have his or her cholesterol measured.

SOURCE: Annals of Rheumatic Disease, March 2006.

if you answered that the source was "annals of rheumatic disease, march 2006", you would probably get that question right on the SAT. but if you actually read the piece, you probably experienced—for a brief moment—what a bad day is like for a copy editor. the thing makes no sense at all, has several blatant grammatical errors, and seems to suggest that the federal defecit causes heart disease (at least according to fed chairman bernanke). it just doesn't parse, as they say. trying to edit passages like this can make an editor feel like his brain is about to collapse, and probably cause heart disease to boot.

judging from its bizarre grammar and cognitive dissonance, you might think it came from a spam email... you know, the ones full of seemingly random text cut-and-pasted to fool spam filters into thinking they're real email. bonus points for you if you thought this, but no.

this was actually a bizarre printing error that appeared today on nytimes.com (as noticed by billycreek and linked on atrios; the link has since been corrected).

one's first reaction upon reading such a travesty is "how does this get past an editor?", but as a professional editor i'm fairly certain that no editor ever saw this text, at least in this form. on analysis this was clearly a jumble of text coming from at least two sources, one of which being about bernanke's thoughts on the economy, the other having something to do with cholesterol. though i have no knowledge of reuters' or the times' systems and cannot guess what actually happened here, i've come across errors like this when stray indexing or formatting codes embedded into the text are incomplete or somehow broken. the result is that chunks of text become "hidden" inside the indexing codes. something like that is probably the culprit here, though it could have been a database error or some other transmission error as well. generally, when i saw missing text like this, i only needed to go back to the source text and could find the missing material there.

maybe this will take some of the mystery out of it, but let's use google's powerful google news tool to track down the original articles. it's easy: just enter a key phrase the article into the search box, and if your phrase is long and unique enough, the source turns right up.

the bulk of this comes from this reuters piece, which starts off with that headline, "Imbalances Driven by Markets, Not Policy: Bernanke". the first half sentence is from the beginning of that piece, the next sentence's worth is from the middle, and then a couple sentences from the end. so, in less that two paragraphs, that's three discrete chunks from the article. (the text at the nytimes link is now the same as at this reuters link)

then, seemingly in midsentence, it cut to content from a different article. the rest comes from this piece, titled "Heel pain may point to cholesterol trouble". about two sentences' worth from the middle of that piece appear, then it cuts to one more clause from the end. the attribution to the annals of rheumatic disease also come from this article.

that's one jumbled document. i can only guess when and how the errors were introduced, but they have since been corrected. in an ideal environment, such errors would have been caught before they were published, but if you learn anything in editing, it's that everyone makes mistakes.


dj empirical said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dj empirical said...

ok, so i commented without actually reading your post.

i'm today's retard.