Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why we still need editors

Police nab 2 murder suspects
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested two more men Thursday in connection with the robbery and beating of a man earlier this month. The victim died 10 days later of his injuries.
Just to recap: Two people (A and B) were arrested earlier in the week and two more (C and D) today. A, B and C have been charged with murder. As for D? "Police have not said what charges are pending" against him. So it seems, to say the least, a little reckless to call him a "murder suspect."

It's really not that hard to write cop heds safely. Start with the passive voice (and get rid of "nab" while you're at it). You can't say "charged in death," because that only goes for one of the new suspects, and until we have some charges against the other, I'd be wary of "arrested in death." But "arrested after" would get the sequence right without tying the Mystery Nonsuspect to the offense he may or may not be charged with. So:

2 more arrested after fatal attack
Not much longer than the first, thanks to all those narrow f-t-l characters. And not nearly as breathless. But if you haven't heard "better dull than libelous" yet, you weren't paying attention in editing class.

Whether 16-year-olds are properly called "men" is a different matter. So is whether it's appropriate to name a suspect who hasn't been charged. "Safe" and "right" are two different things. Being safe is the minimum. It doesn't, or shouldn't, mean you're done thinking.

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