(Update below) Traveling during the Barack-Hillary debate, so no thoughts on that until I see a replay. But this passage from today's NYT, perused during an endless session on US Air, certainly caught my eye:
REDLANDS, Calif. — The most trenchant symbol of the California presidential primary can be found on an isolated stretch of Interstate 15, smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert. There, affixed to an old trailer, is possibly the largest candidate billboard in the entire state, and it is for the Republican fringe candidate, Ron Paul.
Why did I notice?
1) Redlands is where I grew up and where my dad still lives, and it doesn't get that much national ink. So, great!
2) Redlands is not "smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert." To put this in terms that might resonate with the NYT copy desk, this would be like saying: White Plains is smack in the middle of the Adirondacks. More or less in the same part of the country? Yes. In the middle of? Not hardly.
3) Interstate 10 passes through Redlands. Interstate 15? Unt-uh -- at its closest point 15 or 20 miles away.
Maybe the writer was talking about some other place? Fine. But (not that I want to look a hometown gifthorse in the mouth), why this dateline?
On to weighter matters another time.
Update: Fellow son-of-Redlands Brian Beutler observed the same phenomenon on his blog.
Seriously, wasn't sloppiness about datelines one of the complaints about the NYT during the wild and woolly days of Howell Raines? I'm sure what happened in this case was the following: the Ron Paul sign in question was probably someplace on I-15 en route to Barstow, which is in the middle of the Mojave Desert and which is the heartland of Paul-type libertarian/survivalist sentiment. And for the Times's purposes, it was no doubt all close enough to fit under a 40-miles-away dateline. On the other hand: Bill Keller, the NYT's editor, went to college right in this same area and presumably would have known better if he had seen the story. That's all on this subject.