Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brave news world

Here's an idea for that space under the nameplate at the top of the front page! Instead of filling it with that tedious old "news," why not change the subject and turn the floor over to our (unedited) readers? And draw them in with a nearly incomprehensible hed that doesn't know what sort of grammar it wants to be ungrammatical in?

Hard to say what went on there at the newspaper of "suburban Chicago." At a guess, a standard-issue trial precede was knocked into a cocked hat by a (blind-sourced) development on a competitor's Web site. Thus the hed for the story inside proclaims that charges "may be dropped" (as with all "may" heds, it's no truer today than it was yesterday) against the mom in question, based on this graf:

The 36-year-old Tinley Park mother was preparing to go on trial today on misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and obstructing a peace officer. The Sun-Times News Group, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday night that the charges were to be dropped.

The 1A "presence" throws all that reader-blocking caution to the wind:

Should a mother be prosecuted for leaving her toddler alone in a locked, running car, even for just a few minutes?

It turns out a Tinsley Park mother won't be, but it's a question that stirs readers both to complain about overly aggressive police and to condemn thoughtless parents.

And from there, it's over to the readers, more than 75 of whom had commented by the time the trigger was pulled on the front page. And the remarks are the usual sort of belligerent, loopy, ill-informed babbling you'd expect.

It's tempting to say something like "readers are stupid," but that's not entirely true. Most readers aren't stupid, but the stupid ones are the ones who rise to the top when editors mistake public ranting for news. Let us hope this brave new form of court reporting is buckled gently into its safety seat, then driven over a cliff into a river full of alligators deformed by outflow from the reactor.


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