Wednesday, April 11, 2007

First, biggest, only

Copyeds, a reminder that it's not only your right but your sworn duty (that's why you drank the chicken blood) to ask for a scorecard and a list of the runners-up whenever a writer proclaims someone or some event to be a first, biggest, or only.

There's a first of everything and a biggest of everything, granted. They're generally look-up-able and come with a set of standings and an explanation of the scoring. Tallest mountain, done in some linear measure, here's the list. All-time major league home run leader, measured by home runs, here's the list. First man on the moon -- you get the idea.

Trouble comes when writers start juicing stories with sonorous proclamations meant to underscore the gravity of the moment. That's where you need to start checking IDs a little closer. It's embarrassing when some fact-claim leaves the writer sounding like history began back in early February or so. Almost as bad is the Bar Fight Syndrome: Writer makes Profound Statement, everybody else in the bar chimes in with "Oh yeah? What about ...?" You want them reading the story, not arguing about the writer's memory or ability to count.

Here's today's case in point:

Attorney General Roy Cooper is deciding whether the state of North Carolina will proceed with sexual assault and kidnapping charges against David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. The three stand accused in the state's most publicized case in decades, and after a year of turmoil they long for an announcement.

OK. Leave aside the telepathy at the end of the graf. The issue is the underlined phrase that appears before it, and the first reaction from here is "What about ...?"

Velma Barfield aside (one tabloid "Pink PJs" hed doth not eternal fame guarantee, and we're talking about staying power here), a couple of candidates from recent decades do come to mind. In no particular order:

Jeffrey MacDonald (which some years ex post became known as the "Fatal Vision" case)
The Greensboro Massacre
The Wilmington 10 (early '70s, but convictions vacated in 1980)
Eric Rudolph
(Don't see your favorite on the short list? Add a comment or write!)

We might want to consider a few others (Bobby Garwood, for example). But it ought to be pretty clear by now that whatever cosmic point the writers wanted to make is lost in a welter of peanuts and bar napkins. Institutional memory is supposed to be one of the things that set newspapers apart from the wires-and-lights-on-a-box crowd. Let's not be so eager to give it away.


Blogger Andy Bechtel said...

What about Blanche Taylor Moore, the maker of arsenic-laced milkshakes?

The News & Record made a huge deal of that case when I worked there. The 90-point verdict headline:


5:33 PM, April 11, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

Excellent catch! And she was even played by Samantha the Witch herself in the TV movie, right?

5:51 PM, April 11, 2007  
Blogger Rev. Don Spitz said...

Eric Rudolph is not a terrorist, but an anti-terrorist fighter. Those who have killed babykilling abortionists have done so to protect the innocent. People use force everyday to protect the innocent and no one has a problem with it, except when it comes to protecting unborn human beings, then they go ballistic. It's very simple, the unborn deserve the same protection as the born. Born people are protected with force quite often. Force that you would be glad if it was to protect your children against a murderer. Force that you yourself might use to protect your own children from being murdered. The unborn deserve the same protection.
SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.

10:28 AM, April 12, 2007  
Anonymous Amy F. said...

I wonder if this is the first and only time babykilling abortionists have been mentioned on headsup.

Fev, are you going to weigh in on naming the Duke accuser? Just curious.

5:20 PM, April 12, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

Yes, this is a first for babykilling abortionists. I would prefer it to be the last, unless the subject should come up on its own.

In general, I like more opinions rather than fewer, and I have no problem with dissenters or commentators who think I'm clue-deprived. But I will draw the line at hijacking and at soliciting without a license (most folks I know who visit here are quite capable of making their own eternal travel arrangements).

Yes (tnx for asking), I'm trying to put some thoughts together on the naming thing. It's dissertation time, tho, so I'm trying to avoid too much in the way of thinking.

7:40 PM, April 14, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home