Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's missing?

Today's quiz: What's missing from this story?

Some lesser questions are interspersed here and there, but don't be distracted from the main point, because it more or less goes to the Question of the Age in journalism and j-education: If you don't have a clue in the first place, who cares how many media platforms you're fluent in?

A south Charlotte homeowner held a shooting suspect at gunpoint in his garage until police could arrive and arrest the man.

Name Here, Sr., said he and his neighbors have had a problem with break-ins, and he thought he was going to be a victim of one when he saw an unfamiliar man sprinting across his back patio Saturday afternoon.
(Lots of familiar men sprinting across patios in south Charlotte these days, huh?)

“My mom saw him coming out,” said his son, Name Here, Jr. “She was screaming, and my dad grabbed my rifle that he'd been showing my grandfather…"

It just so happened that at that moment, Here, Jr. had been showing off his early Christmas present – a brand new deer rifle. (Could we get some ages here, please? Because at some point -- even before we learn the style rule about commas and "Jr." -- we're going to want to figure out whether junior is Name or Here on second reference.) As the family ran upstairs, Here, Sr. grabbed the rifle, loaded it, and headed to the garage. He cornered the man behind his car and told him to put his hands up. (Did Santa leave the ammunition and the rifle under the tree together? Because he has some pretty screwed-up ideas about gun safety if he did.)

“He was yelling don’t move an inch,” Here, Jr. said he heard his father yell. “If you move an inch put your hands up.” (He heard his father yell "He was yelling don't move an inch"? Just wondering.)

“If he moved I was going to shoot,” said Here, Sr. “And I didn’t really want to shoot but you know, you have to be ready.”

The suspect wrecked his car at the intersection behind the Here’s house, scaled the wall into their back yard, and ran.
(Absent some kind of transition, this sounds as if it's next in the sequence: Sundance threatens the "suspect," suspect wrecks car and flees. Canst clarify? And while at it, canst look up the style on plural possessives?)

While Here, Sr. kept the man at gunpoint in the garage, his daughter climbed on the roof outside her window and flagged down police by waving her arms and ringing a cow bell. (Let's be sure we have this straight: The family keeps an emergency cowbell upstairs, but not a telephone? What do you do, play "Mississippi Queen" to summon the cops?) She could see the car wreck from her window. Police were already in the area looking for the shooting suspect.

“There’s cop cars circling around here and like six cop cars out there,” said Here, Jr.

Police arrived at the Here’s home and arrested the man, and the neighborhood returned to the quiet Saturday afternoon it had enjoyed before all the excitement began.

“It was exciting but at the same time looking back a little scary,” said Here, Jr. “Because it could have been worse.”

Police had not released the suspect’s name as of late Saturday night, but said detectives were questioning him about the shooting.

It sounds worse than normal news writing, but that's partly because it isn't meant to be read. Broadcast journalese is something you speak, preferably while standing At The Scene with emergency vehicles in the background. It needs to be reconfigured for print. But that's only part of the problem. When you converge with your broadcast news partner, you're basically handing over the keys. Unless you're careful, all your standards -- fairness, accuracy, levels of sourcing, levels of identification, anything -- are going to be calibrated to whatever's in play that day over at EyeWitlessAction9News, and that's not a very compelling claim on people who still expect their news to have gone through some gatekeeping.

But back to the main question: What's missing from today's story? Pls check in at the comments.

UPDATE! And this just in, clue bazooka goes off at WCNC! The story's now topped to make the suspect a "break-in suspect"; the family called 911 instead of relying on the cowbell, and the Mystery Question is answered thus:

It turns out, police were looking for a man after a shooting in neighboring Grier Heights. They believed the man who wrecked his car at the intersection behind the Here's house, scaled the wall into their back yard, and ran, could be the suspect they were looking for. ... Police said late Saturday night that the man cornered in Here's garage was determined not to be a suspect in the Grier Heights shooting -- he merely got frightened after the wreck and ran because he had a revoked driver's license.

No explanation of why a wildly erroneous story was posted Sunday if that's what the cops said "late Saturday night" (which is also the time of the attribution in the original), or why the original is still up at the Observer's site as of this writing (3p Sunday), or why anybody thought to post such a tale without asking a few elementary questions about it in the first place.


Blogger Josh said...

Uh, the guy he held at gunpoint is a suspect in a shooting? Which seems to be related to why he crashed his car and ran into the garage in the first place, but apparently still isn't newsworthy enough to expand upon.

12:44 PM, December 21, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Yeah - why was he fleeing the police in the first place? Who actually got shot (at)?

2:43 PM, December 21, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home