yes there are more urgent issues in our times, but this one is important to a few. and since i sit right next to the Copy desk, i find it interesting. as did Jamie our Readers Rep who wrote a post about a reader who wrote in to complain that we are calling our citizens here “Los Angelenos” in a particular new story’s headline.
By the time Henry Fuhrmann saw that e-mail forwarded from the letters department, he’d already fielded some internal complaints along the same lines. Fuhrmann is the assistant managing editor who oversees the copy editors, those responsible for writing the headlines.
To answer several people’s questions: Yes, the editor who wrote the headline is from Los Angeles, not another town, say, Chicago.
(For what it’s worth, the discussion isn’t new, and there isn’t necessarily consensus. Back in 1985, another beloved institution, Jack Smith, wrote in his column, “I am an Angeleno. You are an Angeleno. We are Angelenos, not Los Angelenos.” That was in response to a reader indignant that a headline said “Angelenos,” rather than “Los Angelenos.”)
As for reader Rutenberg’s complaint, Fuhrmann said in an e-mail: “I also found the use of ‘Los Angeleno’ odd, as did a few newsroom colleagues and friends outside The Times. In fairness to our headline writer, I will note that our dictionary lists ‘Los Angeleno’ as an acceptable term. A search of our clips shows that 225 other stories have used the term or its plural since 1985, so in that regard our writer — a native Venturan, for the record — was not alone. Nevertheless, ‘Angeleno’ wins out over “Los Angeleno” by a ratio of 35 to 1 in past stories, and I’m all for the wisdom of the crowd prevailing here. I will caution our copy desk to avoid ‘Los Angeleno’ except in direct quotations, the names of works of art or other contexts in which we typically do not change someone else’s wording.”
Henry rules, and his rules always make sense.