In a report US authorities charge man in ricin probe, SBS states that “A 41-year-old martial arts instructor has been charged with sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials following his arrest.” Whoa… replay that. He sent the letters after he was arrested?
I think that’s a case of a misplaced modifier. According to dailywritingtips.com, “The syntax of the English language is fairly flexible, but one rigid rule is that a word or phrase that modifies a word or a phrase should be positioned so that its interrelationship with the target component is clear.” In this case the writer intended (at least, that’s my assumption :)) to say that the man was charged after his arrest, not that he sent the letters after his arrest. The sentence would have read correctly if ‘following his arrest’ was placed at the beginning: “Following his arrest, a 41-year-old…”
Sadly, this type of error is fairly common in the media these days.
Paul McMullan, a former deputy features editor at News of The world, gave evidence to the UK media inquiry on Tuesday. What he said took my breath away – both for the beliefs he holds, and his audacity in voicing them to the inquiry.
‘Most people from the tabloid world have reacted to the revelations in the manner of Renault when discussing gambling in “Casablanca,” saying they are “shocked, shocked.” But Mr. McMullan veered so far in the other direction that at times he sounded like a satirist’s rendition of an amoral tabloid hack.’ (New York Times)
“In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never found anybody doing any good. Privacy is for paedos.” (The Age)
‘“Circulation defines the public interest,” he said, which meant that everything was legitimate as long as the public bought the paper.’ (The Age)
I imagine that McMullan’s views are extreme, but they are still very troubling, and can only reinforce general mistrust of the media. They do make it easier to understand what happened at News of the World, though.