Monday, April 09, 2007


Another of those pesky reminders that the Brave New World of instant publishing would be well served to remember some of the Brave Old Rules. A nice example is this familiar last-minute backstopping plan: When you get to a fact (asserted or implied) in a hed, put a finger on it. Run another finger down the story until you find the corresponding fact. If you don't find the said fact, you have a problem.

As in? As in:

Police capture armed-robbery suspects
Quick work by police and their search dogs resulted in the arrest of a suspect overnight in the armed robbery of a cab driver in west Charlotte.

Police say two men asked a driver to take them to an address early this morning on Timberbrook Drive, off Tuckaseegee Road west of Interstate 85. When the driver arrived at the address, police say, the suspects robbed him.

... Authorities say one of the two suspects was captured during the night. They are searching for the other man.

The hed writer can quickly check off the facts stated or implied in most of the hed: Police, capture, armed robbery (and huzzah for the oft-abused hyphen, which performs admirably here in making sure "armed" stays with "robbery" and doesn't wander off to modify "suspect," which would assert a fact we can't confirm). But rest a finger on "suspects" and search for its corresponding fact and you stumble: It's a suspect. Buzzers need to go off.

You don't need a staff meeting or a retreat or an ad hoc newsroom committee to fix that. You just need to pay attention to what your seasoned old copyeds have been saying all along. RTFS: Not just for breakfast anymore!


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