Sunday, August 14, 2005

All-Sports HEADSUP-L!

It's the first all-sports edition of HEADSUP-L Online, your home for slow-motion replays of the nightly game tape. There's a bit of everything to talk about here, so let's dive in:

CUTLINE/PHOTO UNITY: The core function of the cutline is to tell the reader something that the photo doesn't. Identity is usually one of those somethings, and the photo itself is the only way to tell whether you've provided too little or too much identification. Here are three examples from Thursday's 3B:

Royals catcher John Buck, right, talks with starting pitcher Zack Greinke during the second inning against the Indians.
As a rule, the guy wearing the catcher's mitt, the mask and the chest protector is the catcher. No need for the directional identifier here.

Chicago's Juan Uribe, right, slides in to score the winning run, beating the throw to New York's Jorge Posada on Wednesday.
Again, since only one guy in this picture is sliding (and the vertical one is clearly wearing the Tools of Ignorance), no need to say who's on the right.

Rafael Palmeiro returns today from his 10-day suspension for steroid use.
Two recognizable faces in this picture. Which one is Palmeiro? If you're expecting your readers to know, you're expecting too much.

Don't use identifiers at random. Don't use them by formula. Use them by function.

ONE FOR THE COLLECTION: Always nice to add another "gets shot" hed to the J110 slide show: "Marshall Maverick gets shot at spotlight" (1B Thursday). To make clear whether "shot" is a noun or a verb, either modify it ("his shot" or "a shot") or use a different verb ("given shot").

PHOTO PLAY: Nice balance of photo sizes on 1B Friday, and a good aggressive crop on the Mavs-Grizzlies horizontal. The Cards-Cubs pic at the bottom, though, isn't the sort that reads well in a single column. The out-of-focus Cubbie in the foreground takes up too much space. Save this size for simpler compositions, like the pitchers on 1B Wednesday.

STYLE REMINDER: When you add a parenthetical clarification to a direct quote (which, of course, you only do very, very sparingly), be sure you follow style. That means referring to adults by family name, not given name, on second and later references:
“It definitely makes you better having someone like (Marcus) pushing you everyday,” Temple says. ("A running candidacy," 1B Wednesday)
The reference to Marcus Woods needs to be (Woods), not (Marcus). And "everyday" is an adjective meaning "ordinary"; this quote needs "every day." Never (never, never, never) change a quote to correct the source, but do correct errors by the writer.

MORE STYLE REMINDERS: Plenty of other style errors slipped by in that story too:
* Generally, set relative clauses and modifiers off with commas, not parentheses, which should be rare in news writing:
... the door is suddenly wide open for either Marcus Woods or Tony Temple (both sophomores) to step into a starting role. Commas, not parens.
He displayed an ability to both run and catch (which will likely be crucial in the Tigers’ offensive scheme this season) ... Commas, not parens.
Woods missed much of the spring with a strained lateral collateral (knee) ligament. Hard to see the need for either commas or parens.

* The parens are correct in But Temple (5-foot-10, 195 lbs.) enters this season with momentum on his side, but don't abbreviate units of measure: Make it "pounds," not "lbs."

* “It’s very intense,” said head coach Gary Pinkel, following Tuesday morning’s practice. Here's a case for judging word order -- verb-subject vs. subject-verb by context rather than by textbook fiat.

Subject-verb should be the default: Pinkel said.

Verb-subject is often a good option when introducing an actor in a story (more preferable with longer titles, less preferable with shorter ones). Head coach Gary Pinkel said is fine. So is said head coach Gary Pinkel, but I'd prefer the first.

Related parts of speech are usually happier when they're closer together. So adding the adverbial phrase at the end gives an edge to subject-verb, which keeps verb and adverb next to each other: “It’s very intense,” head coach Gary Pinkel said after Tuesday morning’s practice.

There isn't a "rule" for this. There are good ways of figuring out the best answer from the context. Use them.

* Tense shift. Present-tense and past-tense attribution are both OK for the feature story. What's not OK is mixing them at random. When the writer switches from
Says Woods: “He deserves to play and I think I deserve to play too."
“It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other,” Temple said.
two grafs later, the desk needs to put the question to the writer: Which one would you like?

All in all, this tale appears to have reached the desk as about a B -- maybe a B+, given grade inflation -- on the style-o-meter. The desk's job is to make sure B stories leave as A stories. I can't see what you caught; all I can see is what you missed.

ANYTHING NICE TO SAY? Sure. I don't see any possessive-vs-plural errors in attributive modifiers in these three issues. Huzzah, sports desk.


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