Friday, July 08, 2005

Poynter Reverend Roy Sins Against the Holy Written Word

Writer's main grammar-punctuation problem: Redundant commas
Writer's style problems: Wordiness (GREEN), passive verbs
Oral History: How Deep Throat Changed America
By Roy Peter Clark (more by author) Senior Scholar, Poynter Institute

In 1972, the year of the Watergate break-in, a hard-core pornographic Use one. film opened at the New Mature World Theater in New York City. The working title of the movie had been “The Doctor Makes a Housecall.” Movie titles get italics But its producer, Jerry Damiano, re-titled it “Deep Throat.” italics Journalism and sexual culture in America have never been the same.

The revelation that Mark Felt was Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat” has solved an intriguing 30-year mystery in the political and press culture of Washington, D.C. It has unearthed dozens of surviving Watergate figures, the political corpse of Richard Nixon, and ancient arguments about the value of anonymous sources.

But as this part Sense: which part? of the story plays out, let’s not forget the movie that gave it a name. No, not “All The President’s Men,”italics but “Deep Throat,” featuring porn’s first superstar, Linda Lovelace. Three decades after the “Woodstein”No rule covers these quotation marks. phenomenon romanticized investigative reporting, the credibility of anonymous sources continues to fade. In those same 30 years, pornography has transformed America.

With few exceptions, journalism has not told the story of this transformation well. In a sexualized culture, straight reporting seems dull, a vestige of a repressed era rather than of a recklessly creative one. Distracted and over-stimulated, the young Collective noun: The British use the plural for all collective nouns. We don't. We use the singular verb for the collective noun as a group; we use the plural only for individual members of the group. continues to ignore us. Blame it on Deep Throat.

Before the making of “Deep Throat,” pornography was a small-time operation, the work of mobsters armed with 8mm cameras, No comma: you cut off a present partipial phrase. capturing crude Comma, equal adjectives grainy images in five-minute “loops” to be viewed at stag for parties. Now, it is a multi-billion dollar Comma, equal adjectives international industry, no longer the sole province of the Mafia, No comma: Don't split a compound predicate nominative. but now the lucrative work of giant hotel chains, cable companies, and internet providers. I watched “Deep Throat” in 1978 with two other reporters in an old Clearwater, Florida Comma: conventional material gas station that had been converted into a shabby porn theater. We were dressed in wore suits, and the proprietor looked shaken when we approached. He might have thought we were the FBI.

Today any 16-year-old boy – or girl – can boot up images even more graphic than those acted out in a Miami motel by Linda Susan Boreman, the real name of the woman whose exotic talents transformed oral sexuality into a national obsession. Enabled by cable television, the VCR, the Internet, in-room hotel movies, e-mail Comma: be consistent. and SPAM, pornography has become more readily available, the viewing of it more and routine, the taboos against it fewer and fewer, and the definitions of deviant behavior looser and looser.
The road from “Deep Throat” italics leads, as it turns out, No comma: Don't split a correlative but into The Clinton White House, where Monica Lewinsky could make use of used her “presidential kneepads,” National Inquirer leering imagery No comma: don't split compound adjectival clauses. Oral sex obsessed Clinton; he was too sexually stunted for genital congress. Troopers said he bought oral sex in Arkansas. "Not really sex" ranks male weasel-out to propitiate wives. This feeble exculpation doesn't fool women from the president on down. and where she could--along with the president – offer the case that oral sex wasn’t really sexual relations at all. Monica didn't share that gloss. She thought they were in love. It No antecedent was just “fooling around,” hooking up, friends with benefits. Seinfeld devoted an episode to it. What? Pronoun reference Oprah expressed concern fretted about middle school Hyphenate: two words before a noun acting as a single adjective. girls servicing their little boyfriends.

Here is how Deep Throat is introduced Passive verb in the book version of “All The President’s Men”: italics Edit: The book version introduces Deep Throat this way: Woodward had a source in the Executive Branch who had access to information at CRP [Committee to Re-elect the President, known as ‘Creep’] as well as at the White House. His identity was unknown to anyone else. He could be contacted Passive verb only on very important occasions. Edit: Woodward could contact him only on important occasions. Woodward had promised he would never identify him or his position to anyone. Further, he had agreed never to quote the man, even as an anonymous source. Their discussions would be only Misplaced modifier to confirm Goes here: only information that had been obtained Passive verb elsewhere and to add some perspective. Edit: Deep Throat confirmed and added perspective to only information Woodward and Berstein had gotten.

In newspaper terminology, this Vague pronoun reference meant the discussions were on “deep background.” Woodward explained the arrangement to managing editor Howard Simons If there is but one managing editor, "Howard Simons" merits commas as nonrestrictive appositive. one day. He had taken to calling called the source “my friend,” but Simons dubbed him “Deep Throat,” the title of a celebrated pornographic movie. The name stuck.

The language is instructive. Woodward and Bernstein do not describe the movie “Deep Throat” italics as “notorious” or “controversial” or even “surprisingly popular,” No comma: "But" does not signal contrasting element. but as “celebrated.” Even those of us who lived through the Watergate era may have forgotten how a shabby 62-minute reel of film became “celebrated.”

Nora Ephron, who would one day marry married Carl Bernstein, devoted her February 1973 column in Esquire italics to the movie, which she found disturbing. To her amazement, “Deep Throat,italics as I write, is currently in its twenty-second record-breaking week…on Times Square, and is thirty-seventh on the list of Variety’s italics top grossers, having so far taken in some $1,500,000.” According to inexact estimates, that number would one day top $600 million.

The week the movie opened in New York, according to its producer, it outgrossed “Cabaret” and the sequel to “Shaft.” But who was going to see it? Accounts from the day include such fans as Mike Nichols, Ed McMahon, Frank Sinatra, Warren Beatty, Truman Capote, Shirley MacLaine, Spiro Agnew, and Sammy Davis Jr. Celebrity attention began to shoved pornography towards the mainstream. Linda Lovelace would be interviewed by Johnny Carson. Passive verb Edit: Johnny Carson interviewed Linda Loveless. And the grandfatherly managing editor of The Post, Newspapers get italics. Howard Simons, would mischievously conjure the title to describe the man who turned out to be was second in command at the FBI.

Thirty years after this moment in journalism history, thirty years after the red flag in the flowerpot, thirty years after the clandestine meetings in the parking garage, A rolling periodic sentence with thudding repetition of a major word goes well in church as Jesse Jackson (and Bill Clinton) has shown us. But the device presents less success in newspaper writing. One doesn't know how to explain this circumstance except to say innate taste for sense of occasion should kick in for the author to resist the beast. Thirty years later, the use of anonymous sources by journalists has never been in worse repute. We’ve come a long way Eschew moss-grown cliches. from that earlier standard set by Felt and Woodstein.

Recent scandals such as Rathergate and Korangate have taken their toll. While the culture of anonymity persists in Washington – and will always require the use of some anonymous sources – many newspapers have banned them except in extreme cases. Many editors – including the current editor of the Washington Post italics -- would now require Woodward to reveal to an editor the name of his source. If Watergate happened today, Mark Felt might hold a news conference and then wind up with his own talk show.

But even as news anonymity has fallen into disrepute, the culture of pornography seems more and more ascendant. Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson become more popular after their private sex videos are made public. Howard Stern turns morning radio into a parade of sexual exhibitionists. Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ Double, not single, quotation marks flashes the world during the Super Bowl. The raunchy lyrics of hip-hop songs are performed against the backdrop of sexually explicit music videos. Passive verb Edit: Hip-hop stars perform...The swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated italics gets nuder and nuder. And the big hotels and big media companies get richer and richer. See me in my office after class.

There’s a backlash against the pornographication Hideous six-syllable neologism of America, but let’s not mistake it Pronoun reference for a fair fight. The FCC, the religious right, certain feminists, I know only Andrea Dworkin as anti-pornography feminist. She just died. One more down who reviled the exquisite Superbowl Viagra, 48-hour-erections culture. These male aids contribute to the no-fool-like-an-old-fool culture, to be sure, but they provide inefficient props for acting out in the culture of pornography. advocates of parental control are waging war against sexual culture Compound sentence: comma but it is the battle of a tiny dam against a raging river. Logic: Unless you replace "it" with a noun, we can't tell who wins. Comment: this paragraph presents a specimen of tangled logic fueled by emotion. The main problem is what the grammar gods call "faulty predication." I diagnose your situation the same as my students faced when they wrote about why the government should legalize marijuana. They got so choked up about not having the right to pot ad lib that they let subjects and verbs and cogent structure go to hell and started to babble. Marijuana essays were the most illogical that I had the duty to wade through. You, I infer, harbor strong feelings about pornography and parental notification and vague but vile opponents to culture, whatever that word means to you. Thus, you find difficult not pouring out words on the vexed subject willynilly. You may understand what you say, but the rest of us don't.

Linda Lovelace died in 2002 at the age of 53, the end of a troubled life that involved of prostitution, pornography, drug abuse, three failed marriages, a double mastectomy, a liver transplant, and two terrible automobile accidents, the second of which took her life fatal. She wrote not one, No comma: compound direct object. but four autobiographies. The first two celebrated her sexual prowess. The last two claimed that she was the her ultimate victim of exploitation and rape. In the final acts of her life, At the end, she became a born-again Christian and a cautionary tale for the evils of pornography.

“Deep Throat, strange as it may seem, Get rid of this cliche with ellipsis. changed America’s sexual attitudes more than anything since the first Kinsey Report in 1948,” argues movie critic Joe Bob Briggs.

In the struggle between the libertine and Puritan cultures in America, Linda Lovelace managed to embody embodied them both. Thirty years from now, when the name of Mark Felt is a footnote, the legacy of the real Deep Throat will carry on, for better and for worse continue. Will journalists figure out how to cover the consequences of that sexual legacy, now and into the future
? Can we even imagine a future where a distracted and over-stimulated society leaves room for the consumption of straight reporting and serious news?


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