Driscoll: It’s the end of ‘today’ in the Vail Daily (column)
Like most things in our Minturn apartment, the bookcase is multipurpose. It displays framed photos alongside a collection of Oktoberfest steins from the past decade and various other knickknacks. The books are relegated to the bottom shelves, stacked two deep in most places, with a few old reporter notebooks, my college diploma and my hefty Oxford Companion to Beer crammed between a hodgepodge of hiking guides, river maps and adventure novels.
There’s no real system for organization, nor is there a need for one when your collection has been whittled down to fewer than 50 can’t-live-without titles. Amongst the chaos, there are two books that I could directly lay a hand on without really looking. The first is a battered copy of Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” which I faithfully read each year from my teens through my 20s and still return to occasionally when I need a break from the monotony of news prose.
The second is a red-orange, dog-eared copy of my very first Associated Press Stylebook.
Published annually since 1953, the AP Stylebook is a reference guide for journalists. It includes chapters on social media fluency and a briefing on media law, in addition to the stalwart style guidelines for composing news, business, fashion, food, religion and sports articles, a punctuation guide and even a page on how to properly use editing marks.
It’s a newspaper industry standard, the bible that directs reporters and editors in all things from ethics to abbreviations. Mine holds a copyright date of 2000, back before there were entries for al-Qaida or Islamic State group and when underway was still two words. Online news was still in its infancy, hashtags weren’t a thing, and Facebook hadn’t yet sprung up on college campuses.
Sifting through this now-ancient little book provides an inkling of why we’ve done some things a certain way at the Vail Daily for many years, why we now struggle to remember to lowercase the word “internet” after having it pounded into our brains as a proper noun by past professors and editors, and why the word “email” occasionally comes through with an errant hyphen in the middle.
By necessity, the AP Stylebook is a fluid document. It grows and changes with the times, adjusting to common vernacular and including ever-more entries as the news world expands and evolves. The Vail Daily’s style guidelines mirror this progression, and much like the AP has done away with some of its more archaic references, our newspaper is now gravitating away from one of its much-used terms — “today.”
Henceforth, the word “today,” in reference to the immediate time element, will be largely banished from the text of these pages. Likewise, days of the week will not appear without the corresponding month and numeric date.
This decision is rooted in our web-first culture. Online news lives on long after print pages have yellowed and crumbled, and long after the word “today” has lost all meaning. Was today the day the story was posted to the website, often a day before it appeared in the print edition? Or was it the day after? Was today really tomorrow?
When it comes to news, clarity is the name of the game, and we hope this change adds a level of clarity, particularly for our online readers. What do you think of this new style guideline? Shoot me an email and let me know, or if you’d like to share your thoughts with the community, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Krista Driscoll is the editor of the Vail Daily. You can reach her at email@example.com.