Reporter’s notebook

I finally got my Asus Eee PC last Wednesday. It has, since then, replaced my main writing gear: an MSI S260 laptop running on Ubuntu Linux.

Several reporters and editors in Sun.Star Cebu had wanted to purchase an Eee PC since the start of the year but we couldn’t get a supplier with enough stocks to provide the initial 10 purchases. Cebu shops, I was told repeatedly, had waiting lists for purchases.

Asus Eee PC, Moleskine, Sony Ericsson P1i TRULY MOBILE OFFICE. Trying to beat a column deadline using the Asus Eee PC in a beachsite resort in Argao. These are my mobile work tools: the Asus Eee PC, a Moleskine reporter’s notebook, and a Sony Ericsson P1i. Click on photo to enlarge.

The two boxes of Asus Eee PC arrived at the office last Wednesday. We got the 4G model. I chose the pearl white version but at the back of my mind, I was still thinking of the Lush Green version of the 2G model.

For such a small device, the Asus Eee PC packs a formidable arsenal: Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, 3 USB ports, a built-in webcam (4G and 8G models), a VGA port for external displays, built-in stereo speakers and a microphone, and a built-in MMC/SD card reader. Any more feature and it could probably write a story for you. But it’s best feature, I think, is that it runs on Linux.

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Back to basics

I started working before the word processor as we know it today and the graphical desktop became mainstream. In fact, in my first few weeks on the job, I used a typewriter.

When I joined The Freeman, a Cebu City-based community newspaper, in 1996, its newsroom was using networked PCs running DOS. It took me a while to get used to writing using a “word processor.” I was scared at sitting in front of those green monitors and their menacing command prompts.

Back then, when reporters sat in front of the computers it was to write stories. The writing program occupied the entire screen and you could not multi-task. There were no games in our newsroom PCs and the Internet could only be accessed on one computer.

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Deferred success my gluteus maximus

An association of teachers had considered a proposal to use “deferred success” as euphemism for “fail.”

According to the Global Language Monitor: “The Professional Association of Teachers in the UK considered a proposal to replace any notion of failure with deferred success in order to bolster students self-esteem.”

Among the euphemisms spotted this year are: misguided criminals for terrorist (used by the BBC); thought shower or word shower for brainstorm so as not to offend those with brain disorders; womyn for women; and Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings in place of Christmas greetings containing the word Christmas.

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Interview notes on my blogging article

I will start publishing today my interview notes for the “See it, hear it, blog it” article printed in a Sun.Star Cebu Special Story during the recent Cebu Press Freedom Week. I would have started printing the notes last week but I was out chasing one deadline after another – including the launching of Sun.Star Cebu’s citizen journalists project.

Improving your writing skills: Lessons learned online

The best way to improve your weblog is to improve your writing. No amount of search engine optimization and membership in blog rings can make people regularly read your site if the articles are poorly written. A newspaper editor once said: the easiest thing for the reader to do is to quit reading.

Some people are born with a gift for writing but for most of us, improving our writing skills is a tedious but rewarding process of continuous learning and rewriting.

Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good websites that offer tips on how to improve our writing skills. Here are some of the sites that I frequent. I hope a few bloggers find the list useful. If you know of other sites, leave the URL in the comments field.

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Media doesn’t, media don’t

I changed the title of the post immediately preceding this from “Why mainstream media doesn’t get it” to “Why mainstream media don’t get it.” The word media, according to the Columbia Journalism Review’s (CJR) language corner, is plural.

CJR, however, concedes that examples of the use of the word as singular are “practically infinite” and that those holding out for “media” as a plural will be overrun someday. CJR says the word media already has a “useful” singular form medium. If you check news sites, however, you’d see usage of media both as singular and plural.

I distinctly remember being told in the newsroom that media should be used as a plural but sleepiness and three glasses of wine made me push the publish button before a second line-reading of the post. Bad idea. As you can see from the URL of the article and the trackbacks sent to sites I referred to in the post, the word I used was doesn’t and not don’t.

Perfectly timed death

In crime news reports, you’d hear or read victims being brought to hospitals and declared “dead on arrival.” It seem such a perfectly timed death – victims dying on arrival.

Of course, what is meant by the phrase is that they were declared dead by doctors when their bodies were brought to the hospital.

“Dead on arrival or DOA is a notation that a patient was brought to a hospital and immediately pronounced dead by a physician. The term arises because first responders such as emergency medical technicians (a.k.a. paramedics or ambulance drivers) do not have the authority to pronounce a patient dead (in the U.S. at least), and they are obliged, in the absence of a do not resuscitate order, to attempt resuscitation if there is any possibility of life and to continue resuscitation until the patient has been examined by a physician, which usually occurs only after the patient has been brought to a hospital.”