Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cycle mania

When Christmas comes early (as it always does) at HEADSUP-L Manor this year, maybe Santa will bring peace on earth and an end to second-cycling of cops tales.

Second-cycling is another of those bizarre holdovers from the days when dinosaurs stalked the composing room and "news" came in two flavors, evening and morning. If the pyems got the overnight house fire, the ayems were morally bound to lead with "Investigators sifted through the ashes" -- notably less interesting than the fire itself, but at least an apparent advance over what the competition had run.

It's an outdated practice at best, but it looks even worse when you second-cycle your own breaking news -- in other words, burying the lede in favor of the procedural routine of investigation. As in this, more or less just in:

Police investigate 2 fatal shootings
Plus, a near-fatal stabbing

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are investigating two fatal shootings and a stabbing that left its victim with life-threatening injuries -- all of which occurred this morning.

The first was at 2:35 a.m. at 2401 Wilkinson Boulevard. Officers responded to a report of shots fired.

It isn't news when cops investigate stuff. It's their job. "Police are ignoring two fatal shootings" -- now that might qualify as news. But particularly when you're posting barely eight hours after the event itself, go ahead and give the event the prominence it deserves.

No whingeing about the passive voice, either. If you don't like two "Two people were fatally shot," try "Two people died in overnight shootings."

And, as it's been noted here more times than we care to count, sentences never -- that's "never" as in "change buses when pigs fly, then go another six stops" -- begin with "Officers responded to." The phrase is permanently banned. Right-thinking reporters don't use it. Alert editors kill it on sight. No exceptions. Likewise "shots fired"; if they weren't fired, they weren't shots.

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