Monday, October 22, 2007

Fingernails on the blackboard

But first, this message from the Stories I Won't Be Reading This Century, Thanks category:
Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Here's a bit of run-of-the-mill cop reporting made worse by what appears to be drastically bad editing at the MCT stablemate that picked it up.* If there's a suggestion for the desk here, it's something along the lines of: It's not really a lot of fun to read about infant death. Try not to make it any worse.
When investigators found the remains of baby Harmony Jade Creech's body this weekend, she was inside a diaper box in the family's attic, said Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins.
The statewide Amber Alert for the 11-month-old baby girl was canceled and Harmony's mother, Johni Michelle Heuser, 25, is being held without bail in the Harnett County jail on a charge of first-degree murder.
Notice how little new information there is in "11-month-old baby girl"? In that we already know both "baby" and "girl"? Think we're being tugged upon a bit here?
The baby's father, Ronald Earl Creech II, just returned from a 15-month deployment in Iraq. Now, he must bury his first daughter, whom he had seen just once during a leave shortly after her birth in January.
It'd be nice to see some editing time spent here -- say, moving "in January" to the left a bit so it can more reasonably modify "a leave," rather than "her birth." If she was born in January, of course, she wasn't an "11-month-old." And since it seems unclear when she died, it might be time to drop "11-month-old" anyway; that phrase seems to have entered the ongoing story when she was first reported missing. Arithmetic is the sort of thing editors can always pay attention to.
Heuser's mother, Brenda Irizarry, picked Creech up at Pope Air Force Base on Friday and drove him to the home he shared with Heuser, Harmony and Heuser's three children from a previous marriage.
But Harmony was gone -- the window near her crib open, clothes and blankets missing as well.
Somebody is doing some editing (the original has another "and": the window near her crib open, and clothes and blankets missing as well), but it's hard to tell to what end.
An investigator searched the house, including its attic, but they didn't find the baby girl.
Evidently not to smooth out glitches in pronoun-antecedent agreement.
Stuffed in a back corner, reachable only with a golf club from an old set stored in the attic, investigators were able to grab a Pampers diaper box so light it could have been empty, Rollins said.
Aha! It's to edit in annoying offenses against standard desk grammar! We've taken the original (They discovered, stuffed in a back corner and reachable only with a golf club from an old set stored up in the attic, a Pampers diaper box so light that it could have been empty, Rollins said) and turned it into a dangling participle! But there's more:
In there they found little Harmony Creech's decomposing baby body wrapped in a plastic bag, he said. Investigators are waiting for a medical examiner's report to provide a better time and cause of death.
Little Harmony's decomposing baby body! Do people actually write that badly? Well, not in this case. Here's the original: Inside they found Harmony's decomposing body wrapped in a plastic bag, he said. And "a better time" isn't original either (as if you weren't having a good time already); in the source paper, it's a more exact time.
Seriously. Editors, if you feel the need to do something to prove you're there, why don't you just make the guacamole or something?
* I'm sort of inferring from past practice here, and it's a bit rusty; it may be that the copy went out raw and actually got cleaned up at the source paper. Delighted if any hands at either paper could advise.



Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

It's a dead baby! Clearly this fact is the most important thing in the entire article and we must be bludgeoned by it.

But, seriously. "Little Harmony's decomposing baby body" is awful.

5:18 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Canaduck said...

Little Harmony's decomposing baby body? UGH! Next I want to see "Investigators discovered Mr. Smith's decomposing man body." It's only fair and sounds just as professional.

1:24 PM, October 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Update: see

4:52 PM, September 25, 2009  

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