Comment on today’s “Weakened Addition” on NPR

Scott Simon:

I’m a third-generation writer. My grandfather came to America in 1913 carrying three typewriters: English, Cyrillic, and Hebrew. My parents were newspaper and magazine editors, and my father was a senior editor at Chicago’s City News Bureau during its heyday. Incidentally, he is also the man who, on a fateful car trip, dissuaded Mike Royko from going into radio announcing, suggesting instead that he focus on his writing.

My brother is a medical copy editor. Aside from writing, I myself spent years in back rooms as a typographer as well as a news copy and slot editor, and it is in these places that I learned that careful copy and attentive typography elevate our language as well as any well-turned phrase. Do we aspire to live in air-raid shelters, or nice houses with smooth walls and solid finish-carpentry?

It should come as no surprise to you when I say that your comments, about those who care about punctuation are “cranky” people who lack “real lives,” are more than unwelcome. These comments are insulting to the many silent heroes in your own field. What started as a matter-of-fact academic study, you have chosen to import into the social fabric of your own adopted profession.


Unfortunately, your attitude is typical of the stars in front of the mics and cameras, and under the bylines — those who enjoy the lion’s share of credit for the journalistic profession and yet fail to pay proper credit to the work behind the scenes. The craft of language is far more than just some self-important mouth at the microphone. Your attitude, if you persist in it, will serve to further dumb-down and cheapen journalism. I am sure that my family is at least as liberal as yours, and yet we believe that one can speak progressively without ignoring the beneficial aspects of ideas that protect something as important as language. I am younger than you, but I have lamented the gradual changes in public media that encourage commentary like yours, whose sole purpose, if not sincere, is to pander to a younger audience.

Sadly, your star status makes the least of your ideas much more persuasive than anything I could ever say, no matter how carefully I were to word it. Please don’t teach the new generation these asinine values.

Call me cranky, call me introverted — but your attitude has consequences. I am withholding my donation to public radio.


About Peter Zelchenko

Just read and enjoy. I cannot account for 50 years in this small space, nor the past 40 on technology's strange edge.
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