A Finely Honed Story Is A Beautiful Thing : Memmos Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott writes occasional notes about the issues journalists encounter and the way NPR handles them. They often expand on topics covered in the Ethics Handbook.
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A Finely Honed Story Is A Beautiful Thing

Sometimes we say "honed in" when we mean "homed in." Within minutes, we hear from listeners or readers who wonder why we don't know the difference between "hone" and "home."

They want us to save "hone" for when we're talking about sharpening, and to use "home" when we're saying that something or someone has been targeted.

Those folks are sticklers and that's OK. What they rarely acknowledge, though, is that there's a lot of fine honing in the work we do.

Look at how much information was packed into two Newscast obits this morning:

– "Renowned TV and film writer and director Garry Marshall has died in Burbank, Calif., at the age of 81. His publicist says he had pneumonia following a stroke. He was behind many TV hits such as Happy Days. Other Marshall hits included Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and films such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. Marshall had supporting roles in Lost in America and in Soap Dish." (Korva Coleman)

– "The creator of the 1970s and '80s TV sitcoms Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy has died. Garry Marshall was 81 years old. He died at a hospital in Burbank, Calif., of complications from pneumonia; following a stroke. Actor Richard Gere worked with Marshall on the film Pretty Woman. He says Marshall was one of the funniest men who ever lived, with a heart of pure gold." (Dave Mattingly)

Listen to the top of Morning Edition's roundup of news from the GOP convention. Steve Inskeep quickly wraps up the campaign so far, folds in news from last night and sets up listeners for three wonderful clips:

"Months of brutal campaigning for president concluded with a quaint American tradition last night. State delegations cast their ballots for president at the Republican National Convention. It's a chance to promote your candidate for the nomination; and also your state."

Revisit the way Weekend All Things Considered opened its look at policing. With short, declarative sentences and the effective use of clips, the show prepared listeners for a powerful hour. Michel Martin then kept things simple:

"After all that's happened this week, indeed, after all that's happened in recent years and confrontations between citizens and law enforcement that have resulted in deaths and injury among both, we decided to take this entire hour to talk about policing.

"Almost all of our guests today are or have been directly involved in law enforcement, and we'll be talking with them about the work they do, why they do it and whether they think the system is broken. We'll talk about how they cope with the stresses of the job, and we'll be talking with folks who've looked at the latest research around policing to ask them what, if anything, should be done differently."

Read these concluding paragraphs from Linda Holmes' appreciation of The Great British Baking Show (which I also love):

"What emerges over the course of the show is that it doesn't only have a style; it has an ethic. Mary and Paul do not fall victim to the misdirection of small but spectacular-looking mistakes. If the custard in the middle of whatever you're making doesn't quite set, the entire thing may collapse and run all over the counter, but they'll taste it anyway! And they'll tell you that your custard not setting isn't necessarily a bigger mistake than anything else; it just looks worse. If you can't get your cake put together, they'll still taste the layers. You may not be out. Do not lose heart. Do not lose heart.

"Don't laugh, but this is life, in a way, as we all hope for it to be. You screw up, but not entirely. You see your hoped-for result dashed on the counter in a pile of goop, but someone says, "I see what you put into this; I see what you intended." Someone you trust who is better than you are at whatever you're trying to do says, "We both see what you did wrong; I can help you identify what you did right." You still might lose. You still might go home crying with disappointment. But someone will have said, "Next time, take it out of the oven five minutes sooner and you'll really have something." It's a show of such ... hope. Hoping everybody else is going to be willing to try the imperfect layers of your particular not-quite-put-together cake is often the only way to get through the day, after all.

"It will also really make you want to learn to make macaroons. Though that might be just me."

Check out this carefully crafted phrase from Camila Domonske's Two-Way opus on Larry the Cat and the rumors that he hasn't been a very competent prime mouser:

"Slurs on Larry's efficacy continued to dog him."

The list could go on. The point is that while we may not always use the word "honing" correctly, we do know very well how to hone.