Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zombie journalism

How do you write a lede on a Friday traffic accident for the Sunday edition of Collegetown's Baddest Afternoon Daily?

A motorcyclist who drove off a rural highway and crashed in Audrain County on Friday night remained yesterday in fair condition at University Hospital.

Got it? Let's try again:

A Columbia motorist remained yesterday in serious condition at University Hospital after a two-vehicle collision Friday just east of Columbia.

OK! We seem to have the "remained yesterday" part down. Let's look at the next two grafs of that second story:

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said that Driver the First, 67, was westbound on Route WW in a 1984 Ford Crown Victoria and collided at Rangeline Road with a northbound 2002 Chevrolet 1500 pickup driven by Driver the Second, 32, of Columbia.

The wreck occurred at about 11:30 a.m., the highway patrol said, and Second had failed to yield at the intersection.

Plenty of detail, wouldn't you say? Anything else you might like to know about this story? Like, say, which of the drivers was injured? Good thing we have Collegetown's Baddest Morning Daily to fill in the gaps:

Authorities have identified a Columbia man injured in a two-vehicle collision Friday morning in southeast Columbia.

Driver the First, 67, was seriously injured when a pickup truck collided with his 1984 Ford Crown Victoria at the intersection of Highway WW and Rangeline Road.

There's the small matter of the earthquake -- as in, if Rangeline and WW* has moved inside the city limits, should we be leading with the earthquake, or did the Other Paper overlook a pretty big annexation? But if you read both papers, you should get things more or less sorted out.

The morning paper isn't without its own strange habits. If the lede says "Two Columbia cab drivers were robbed early Saturday morning in northeast Columbia by a man who implied he was armed with a knife, according to a news release from the Columbia Police Department," how should the next two grafs end?

... the release states.

... the release states.

Ready to try it on your own?

A Columbia man was stabbed by his girlfriend Saturday morning in his home, according to a news release from the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

... the release states.

... the release states.


A 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of second-degree drug trafficking Friday afternoon, according to a Columbia Police Department news release.

... the release states.

... the release states.

Why all the stating? Looks like the World's Oldest J-School is still teaching the recruits that only people can "say" -- documents have to "state," though they ought to be "according to" on first reference. As far as I know, that's never been true in any flavor of English, but rules -- even bogus ones -- are easy things to teach.

Rulewise, I'd rather put my time into explaining why "Man stabbed by girlfriend" isn't the same hed as "Girlfriend accused in stabbing," but the bigger question remains: If we're trying to teach people to be good writers, why are we teaching them bad habits?

* Signage fail: I've never been to the fabled intersection of OO and AA, but every time we went to the Eagle Bluffs conservation area, we went through K and KK.


Blogger Niko Dugan said...

You mean you never took a quick jaunt down to Jeff City on 54?

Alternatively, you could have stopped on your way to Lake of the Ozarks, hopping on Missouri 52 through Barnett:

That's Missouri for you: Looking for [road]? We've got at least two with that name!

5:06 AM, July 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but without the relevant papers in front of me I didn't understand this post at all. It's not clear that "let's try again" is code for "let's take another example" (I think that's what it means...), and where you ask "how should the next two grafs end" I expect this to be followed by your answer, and am therefore disoriented when the repetition of "the release states" (which at that point I take to be your recommendation) is followed, eventually, by a non-endorsement of that phraseology. I'm still not sure I grasp all the points you intended to raise.

3:13 AM, August 10, 2009  

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