Friday, September 19, 2008

Calm down or we'll kill you some more

Is it just me, or is this hed bizarrely out of tune?

19 inmates killed to calm
prison riot near San Diego

For want of a real technical explanation, I think the problem is that the hed sounds more like a prescription than an outcome:

What are you going to do for that headache?
I think I'll take two Tylenols.

What are you going to do for that riot?
I think I'll kill 19 and injure about 12.

Better explanations are welcome. (And, yes, I don't doubt that someone gave a shoot-to-kill order; I'm puzzled by the implication of specific intent. What were the other 12 people shot for -- to please the Great Old Ones?)

We should note in passing that the problem wouldn't have come up if the hed writer had followed one of the most basic of rules: Heds live in main clauses, not subordinate clauses. The lede is organized this way:

Hundreds of anxious families waited outside La Mesa State Penitentiary for word on their loved ones Thursday after police fatally shot 19 prisoners to regain control of the facility.

because the killings happened Wednesday, leading to this hed Thursday (online, at least):

Mexican police kill 19 Tijuana prison inmates

I don't think "families wait anxiously" is the most compelling lede available. I'm more interested in the gap between the official account of how things started and the inmates' relatives' account. Either way, though, don't put the hed you ran yesterday on today's story.

2 Comments:

Blogger Strayhorn said...

Pour encourager les autres?

2:27 PM, September 19, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

It is indeed jarring. "Quell" or "stop" would have been better.

And the lede is just bizarre. It almost sounds as if sometimes they kill prisoners and no one cares.

8:12 AM, September 20, 2008  

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