Sunday, August 27, 2006

Burn the thesaurus

Uganda, rebels agree to cease-fire in 19-year rift
KAMPALA, Uganda - The Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army rebels agreed Saturday to end a 19-year conflict that left thousands dead in one of Africa's longest wars, officials said.

Generally, "thousands dead" is enough to qualify for more than "rift" status. This one isn't World Rift II, the Thirty Years' Rift or even the Iran-Iraq Rift, but -- in case anyone's interested -- it's still a chance to send a small signal that the paper takes Africa seriously. Go ahead and throw out the thesaurus (if you can find it; good copyeds often don't even know where the damn thing is). Call a war a war, and save rift (or tiff, or set-to, or fais-do-do, or what have you) for the funny pages.

The lede's a nice chance to practice some basic editing skills, too. The AP's trying to pack in a few too many ideas for its own good; if you strip the modifiers out of the object complement, you get a hed on the order of

Conflict kills thousands in war!

... which is just a bit on the tautological side. If the AP can't make up its mind, the desk should offer to help. Emphasize the length of the unpleasantries:

The Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army rebels agreed Saturday to end their 19-year conflict, one of the longest in Africa, officials said.

or the number of people rifted:

The Ugandan government and Lord's Resistance Army rebels agreed Saturday to end a 19-year conflict that left thousands dead, officials said.

Pretend you're an usher. Work the remaining element in at a natural break in the onstage action. How do you know you'll have enough room? Well, running enough of the story to get to the background paragraphs is a nice way of hinting that you actually think 19-year civil wars are serious, isn't it?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are trying to improve our heds, honest. For years it didn't matter, because you guys hiked them off and put on your own -- AP heds were glorified slugs.

Now with more folks posting the content directly to their sites or using otherwise using feeds as-is, the gaffes look a lot worse.

--AP non-journalist employee

3:09 PM, August 29, 2006  

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