Saturday, March 04, 2006

Parade of stupid questions

Quick, what's a good argument against running a hed like this:

Are remains truly Joan of Arc's?
Experts hope to prove whether skin, bone fragments are saint's
PARIS - Nearly 700 years after the death of Joan of Arc, a French forensic team hopes a series of tests will prove whether charred fragments of skin and bones might be those of the 15th-century heroine

How about ... because we ran the same hed on the AP version three weeks ago!
Could remains come from Joan of Arc?
A team of scientists hopes to crack one of the layers of mystery surrounding 15th-century French heroine Joan of Arc: Could a rib and other fragments recovered after she was burned at the stake be hers?

Notice that although the heds ask different Stupid Questions, the ledes ask effectively the same one. And the answer is: Of course they could! And they could be Fideaux the dog!

If we'd bothered to read our own AP tale, we might have noticed something relevant. Given that there's no sample to compare the relics with, there's no way on God's green earth we can know whether they're hers. Best we can do, apparently, is determine whether they're actually a human female from around the 15th century (it's hard to tell whether the doc or the AP is responsible for saying tests can determine the stuff's "exact age," but if that didn't strike you as patent nonsense from the outset, please post your credit card number here for a chance to win your own bridge across the Rhone). We might be able to rule out Joan of Arc, or John of Arc, or Fido of Arc, but we aren't going to be able to rule anybody in. And we probably could have figured that out without running the story twice.

HEADSUP-L would really appreciate it if we exercised a little more judgment over the stuff that goes on the religion pages. There's no reason the Faith section has to be the Stupid section. Come to think of it, there's no reason the A section should be either, but one battle at a time.


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