Blog Flashback, March 2007: Notes on Schwag, Grammar, and the Digital Revolution

Some Notes on Schwag

Lyon Schwag
Schwag. It’s the dressed-up version of swag, which in turn is the acronym for Stuff We All Get. Some say it’s only wares with big logos on them, I say nah, that’s chotchkes. In my book, it’s any little gift that ends up in your inbox.

Schwag is a common term among celebrities, and at trade shows, and for many journalists, who tend to receive a lot of schwag as a rule.

It’s a benefit of the job, but it’s part of the writing process, too. Depending on the type of article being created, free stuff is thrown our way to facilitate a complete piece of work, in most cases. Tickets to a show ensure a review written from great seats, for example.

A wide array of items can land on our desks. I’ve received countless books, tickets to shows and museums, techie-products for review, lines of food, toys, drink mixes, CDs, movies, and more t-shirts than a lifetime of gym visits and stuffing drafty doors could use up.

Most journalists will affirm that when a company requests a review of a product, sending the product to us is customary, and it’s actually not technically ‘schwag,’ as much as it is necessary information.

Sometimes, we request the product, for either review or mention in a standard article . Most firms are more than happy to provide a sample product or a press pass/free admission to an event in exchange for press, and this is an accepted, valid process. The exception (for most) is high-end or very, very large items.

On the other side of the coin, writers will often receive schwag in return for an article on or mention of an item or the company that offers it. This is also usually fine. However, with free stuff coming at us so often, it’s important to treat schwag with respect, despite its goofy moniker.

A few Dos and Don’ts of Schwag Management:

• Impose a monetary limit on gifts received after publication, if your employers haven’t done so already. ABC News, for instance, asks its reporters, including Barbara Walters, to cap schwag at a few hundred dollars. In addition, items that aren’t necessary to the article should be (politely) refused if they’re offered before publication, because they can be construed as a bribe. It’s a fine line… trust your instincts.

Don’t expect schwag unless, again, it’s necessary to the story. Don’t request a book you just want to read, or the entire line of hair products if you’re only going to write about the shampoo.

• Don’t turn schwag into schwas — Stuff We all Sell. Getting a freebie from an article subject is both a professional courtesy and a sign of goodwill, and selling it gives you a monetary benefit that wasn’t part of the deal.

There are some outlets out there who spread the wealth, and that is a great practice that extends that goodwill from the company to the publication and on to the reader. Advocate newspapers in New England, for instance, publishes a weekly ‘Schwag Alert,’ to which readers can respond by e-mail and, if chosen at random, take advantage of some free tickets or gift certificates.

Published: Thursday, 8 March 2007

Say it Right, dammit

Writers learn very early in their careers that, though not necessarily lucrative, their talents are in high demand.

Think about it. Who do you ask to proofread your cover letter and tweak your resume? Who do you call at 9 p.m. and just say “I’m thinking of a word…” ? Who do you ask to participate in an impromptu spelling bee in the office, when you’re trying to send an e-mail that includes an ‘i before e’ ?

Chances are, it’s the one person in your life who is known for being able to string a sentence together, whether it’s their full-time job or not.

Over time, I’ve learned to embrace this phenomenon, especially after the six years I spent in middle school and high school being ridiculed for knowing what ‘caustic’ meant. I went to a small public school, where acting like a moron was championed.

I don’t really get made fun of for knowing big words anymore, I think in part because, like all the nerds of the world, I’ve spun my geekiness into a career and an overall rewarding life, while the losers who failed to embrace their inner-dork wallow in a sea of mediocrity, recalling their glory days on the field hockey field.

But I do notice a new trend — people sometimes seem scared to death to say a word wrong in my presence, like I’m going to unsheath my verbal machete and deliver them into a world of pain.

Most times, I won’t.

But there is something that needs to be said in regard to butchering the English language. Communication is our greatest weapon, people. Don’t be scared of it, just learn your way around it.

It’s true that hearing words mispronounced or seeing the mispronunciation in print drives me absolutely batty. But what sends me into the stratosphere is when people try to act like Oxford Dons while they’re speaking like a mongoloid. Slowly, I’m learning to embrace this inner-hatred, too. It’s not that I’m a jerk. I just think if you don’t know how to do something, and you plan on doing it, you should first learn how. You know, like flying a plane, or reading.

Just as a quick tutorial, here are a few I hear all the time:

• It’s espresso, people, not ‘expresso.’ THERE IS NO X IN ES.PRESS.O. This is coffee, not a commuter train.

• Speaking of it’s, it’s = it is. Its denotes possession, like its foot, its hand, its crappy grammar.

• Supposably. Please tell me you know this is completely wrong.

• Valentimes Day. Hey everyone, it’s time for a Valen! The new pharmaceutical that makes it ok to say the MOST COMMERCIAL HOLIDAY EVER wrong, despite the fact that it is plastered on every strip mall facade for the entire month of February.

• A trip to the doctor sometimes results in a PROSTATE exam. Stop saying you’re getting your ‘prostrate exam’ immediately. You sound like a doink.

• One more time: there is no such word as ‘irregardless.’ Do not say irregardless, unless it is with a sense of irre-irony.

• Ok, every American on the planet gets this one wrong. And if you get it wrong in the U.K., you don’t have to worry about me – everyone from the street sweeper to the bartender to the Prime Minister will snort and sigh in their understated British disgust. You PAY-tro-nize a restaurant, and you PAH-tro-nize a person, meaning you placate them. look it up.

• If you’re on a date and you want to compliment the girl you’re with, don’t tell her she’s articulated. She might be. You aren’t.

• You cannot be orientated or disorientated. Putting more syllables in words doesn’t make them more valuable.

• I think eight years of hearing President Bush say ‘nucular’ is quite enough, thank you. I am also sick of ‘jew-le-ry.’ And for the record, the ‘t’in often is silent.

I found dozens more here , but I had to stop reading because I was starting to crack my mouse with angry squeezing.

Published: Tuesday, 13 March 2007 Tags: english writers merriamwebster words language mispronounced


A visitor‘ left this comment on 14 Mar 07
Isn’t it production day? Did you axe GOB if you could blog?

The Digital Revolution Continues

The world’s oldest newspaper publication has gone digital, and is now available online only. The Post och Inrikes Tidningar (PoIT) was founded in 1645 by Queen Christina of Sweden, but the world’s oldest newspaper can now only be read on

The world’s oldest newspaper publication has gone digital, and is now available online only.

The Post och Inrikes Tidningar (PoIT) was founded in 1645 by Queen Christina of Sweden, but after 362 years of traditional print publication, the newspaper made the leap to the web, according to the New York Times.

Roland Haegglund, PoIT’s new editor-in-chief, called the move a ‘natural step.’

“The change in format is of course a major departure, for some possibly a little sad,” he said. “It will definitely widen our readership. Now anyone with Internet access can read PoIT free of charge.”

Still, its former editor, Hans Holm, calls the switch a ‘cultural disaster.’ Just goes to show that change never comes easily, even when it comes quickly.

Published: Tuesday, 20 March 2007

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