Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This isn't the story you were looking for ...

... so why invest front-page space in it? That's a mystery, especially when it's clear from the outset that there's going to be no substance in this tale:

She is a 43-year-old, divorced mother of two teenage boys who wants to believe she can still experience true love.

Oh, stop the press.

She is an intensely private woman who was not afraid to fight back when that privacy was breached.

She was educated in Catholic schools and professes her belief in God, evil and the afterlife, and yet joined a married father of four in violating the Seventh Commandment prohibition against adultery.

This might come as a surprise to the AP, but -- if we start listing all the commandments violated by people who went to Catholic schools or profess beliefs in sundry deities, we're going to solve the recession in the newsprint business singlehandedly.

Maria Belen Chapur has successfully eluded the news media since S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford revealed their yearlong affair last week.

Do you get the idea by now that you've just learned all the new stuff you're going to learn from this epic? OK, that's not entirely true. We learn that an "acquaintance" describes her mom's family as "oligarchic," which without a little cultural context seems likely to be wildly misleading to your garden-variety reader who stopped paying attention to South America long about the time world peace broke out forever in 1990. And we learn that a "classmate" says -- well, either when she went back to school, which college she went to or what she majored in, depending on how you read AP sentence structure.

We learn that she's "dark-haired," which we must have forgotten in the time it took to follow the story inside from the 1A photo, and "athletic" (AP seems to think we need to be reminded of what women look like, in case anyone thought the governor was seduced by some hideous crone). And we learn that she "traveled the world, learning English, French and Portuguese" -- not technically a "dangling" participle, but sort of a wandering one, in that there's no explanation of why someone who went to an international baccalaureate high school and majored in IR in college wouldn't have already studied English and Portuguese* at least before traveling the world. Perhaps it's so we can be reminded seven grafs later that she's a "well-mannered polyglot and competitive runner."**

And, of course, that she sounds*** like a "giddy schoolgirl" (don't mind me, I'm just dreaming about a planet with three suns where little streams of Pilsner Urquell come trickling down the rocks and major news co-ops refer to sitting Republican governors as "giddy schoolboys"). And that she -- no, you just have to enjoy this one for yourself:

“…You brought happiness and love to my life and (I) will take you forever in my heart,” she wrote in imperfect English. “Believe me, I haven't felt this since I was in my teen ages, when afterwards I got married.”

But hang on, we're sort of getting to the point, I think, maybe:

Since word of the affair broke last Wednesday, first lady Jenny Sanford has been widely praised for her poise and strength. She has fiercely guarded her sons' privacy, and expressed a willingness to work at forgiving Sanford and salvaging the marriage.

Chapur – who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jenny Sanford – has demonstrated similar grace, despite her role in the affair.

OK. We need to be able to trust our reporters when they describe demonstrations as massive, or earthquakes as devastating, or cities as destitute. Uncanny resemblances, I'm not so sure about. And what exactly constitutes "similar grace" -- the mere fact of not having found a buyer for the memoirs yet?

Here, I think, we're starting to see the real disconnect between the almost-nil content of the story and what someone must have thought it was to sell it to the front page. The deck hed says "Sanford's lover earns praise for poise and grace under pressure," which is, y'know, strictly speaking, made up. On the evidence, the only praise she's earned is from the AP -- which, after tut-tutting about her hair, her syntax**** and her fidelity to the Commandments, seems to think it needs to say something nice.

Perhaps it actually looked like a Modern Woman profile, rather than a few nuggets of pedestrian biographical information from unnamed sources and a bunch of second-hand judgments that the AP doesn't really have either the qualifications or the evidence to make. Given what we have in hand, though, surely there was something else from the World Beyond Mecklenburg that merited some editorial attention.

* Which, after all, they speak in the neighboring country that's sort of the biggest one on the continent.
** Does that mean she's a well-mannered runner too, or is she only well-mannered when she's polyglotting?
*** To whom besides the AP, we aren't told.
**** Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.



Blogger Strayhorn said...

Ya gotta know the code:

"Still find true love" means what it's always meant: "wealthy older guy."

And I'm pleased to note that "flying off to Argentina" has now joined "Ugandan discussions" as my favorite geographical euphemism for the beast with two backs.

Tired and emotional, I remain,
your obt servant etc

9:02 AM, July 01, 2009  

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