Sunday, August 20, 2006

St. Custard's hav begun another term.

Well, almost. As ane fule kno, the new term doesn't officially start until the crack of eight on Monday. So there's still time to shake out a few kinks and aim for a semester entirely free of Forbidden Ledes and other undelights.

Boone County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from a resident about a man carrying a “big gun” north of Columbia on Friday night.

"Police responded to..." and all its variants are permanently banned, from all ledes, at all times, under all circumstances. The news is the arrest, not the happy circumstance of the cops' doing their job.

Localman, who the Sheriff’s Department said was intoxicated, had apparently angrily threatened three residents of a nearby housing unit with the rifle.

We have no idea what this chap "apparently" did. If we know what the POLICE SAY he did, put that in the story and attribute it. But no speculating about what "apparently" happened.

Localman is being held at the Boone County Jail. His arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

No peering into the future, which is what "is being held" does. We have no idea whether that will be true at the time of publication. Stick with what you know: "Was being held Saturday at the Boone County Jail."

On the bright side: The story follows house style, rather than Tribune style, on "Sheriff's Department" and "Missouri 763." And it's still the preseason.

On July 28, Christian music artist Caleb Rowden signed a guitar for a young fan of his music

This one's a bit trickier. Date ledes aren't banned outright, but they ought to be extremely rare because they only work in a limited number of cases. They can foreshadow:

On Sept. 10, 2001, Roscoe completed his plans for a New York vacation. He bought Yankees tickets. He made reservations at the restaurant atop the World Trade Center for that Saturday night.

And they can set up a contrast or introduce a relevant date:

On Aug. 21, 1976, Roscoe kissed his family goodbye and left for work as usual. Thirty years later, his disappearance remains a mystery.

But for kicking off a garden-variety news or anecdotal lede, they almost invariably take the reader's eye off the ball by emphasizing the wrong thing. This one isn't about the date as much as the event: "a CD signing in Columbia between gigs in Michigan and Ohio." Desk hands don't want to hack these apart on their own, but they should feel free to suggest improvements. ("Police responded," on the other hand, must be changed in all cases, though it's a good idea to notify the offending desk.)

Lucky Newcomer, a Taiwanese graduate student studying public affairs, had the winning number — 7448 — and was the lucky recipient of a new microwave.

Adjectives aren't always bad things; as the Language Logsters point out, E.B. White is a better writer when he ignores his own anti-adjective commandments. But "lucky winner," like "scrumptious sandwich," is the sort of adjectival overload that comes from watching too many commercials. We've said he had the winning number; what's the point of adding that he's "lucky?"

Unfortunately, heavy rains washed out the game.

Again, not so much wrong as irrelevant, though for a different reason. The paper's judgment on whether this occurrence is fortunate or unfortunate is of no import whatever, and writer and editors should resist the temptation to share it. (The flip side is the classic Anchorman Adverb: "Fortunately, no one was hurt." The victims' good fortune doesn't need the anchorman's blessing.)

Now for some good news, because there's a lot of it in the overnights: Story/cutline age discrepancy, fixed. Misspelled name in story, fixed. Misspelled names -- yes, that means rather a few of them -- in obits, fixed. Misstated relationship in obit, fixed. And the potentially embarrassing "closet friend" turned into "closest friend." That presages a good season of desk work. Writers owe these folks a round of applause (and, for those 21 and over, drinks).


Anonymous Amy Fiscus said...

I had my first pubic/public this week. Well, first that I caught, anyway.

7:59 PM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

All right! Fiscus owes everybody a Wheat.

10:58 PM, August 20, 2006  

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