Friday, December 26, 2008

Pin the prepositional phrase on ...

Today's quiz! Based on the cutline, where were:
1) The rampage
2) The party
3) The news conference?

The Basic Rule of news agency cutlines is: Never run 'em verbatim. They're annoyingly literal, meaning they often commit the offense of telling you what your eyes have already told you (be thankful, at least, that the cop isn't gesturing as he points as he reacts). They stack information without regard to how it might go together, so "rampage at a Christmas party during a news conference" is interchangeable with "news conference about a rampage at a Christmas party." And they always need to be tweaked for style; your archivist needs to know that the rampage/party/conference was "Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008," but for publication we call that one "Thursday."

All of which leaves aside the larger question: What's so interesting about a picture of a guy standing in front of a bunch of microphones? That's part of what a murder story looks like, just as "He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile"* is part of what one sounds like. Given that the Good Ship Journalism is still taking on water and we're looking for stuff to throw over the side, maybe this is a good time to dump a few assumptions about the nature and appearance of news.

* Optional: "He was kind of a loner. Always kept to himself."

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3 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Those Christmas parties during news conferences* have incited a lot of rampages, I'll bet.

* is this what I call a "press conference"?

11:01 AM, December 26, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

Can't be exclusionary, now! "'News conference' is preferred," sez the AP. Who knows from the AP's reasoning, but the conventional wisdom I always heard was that we shouldn't make the TV people feel left out.

8:38 PM, December 26, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, sorry! I didn't realize that tv folks weren't "the press"... I thought the term was more inclusive than that. Guess the print folks don't want to be lumped in with the video - and who can blame them?

10:19 PM, December 26, 2008  

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