Monday, August 24, 2009

Jumping the ... no, don't

Sounds like a nice, cheery, pro-underdog hed to find in your normally pro-criminal bleeding-heart liberal media, doesn't it?

Slight problem, though. Nothing in the text tells us whether the hed is true. Here's the closest thing to an indication:

When the gunmen left, police said, a male victim of the crime ran out, looking for the people who had robbed them. He caught up with the men, and a shootout ensued. Police say the victim was not hit by gunfire, but it is not clear if any of the gunmen were struck.

A prime example of how the active voice too can hide agency. Much as we might want it to, nothing in "a shootout ensued" tells us who shot first or who shot back.

It'd be nice if the Obs (and news outfits in general) just went ahead and disabled the "comment" function on crime stories. Tamping down the Wild West tone in the heds isn't a cure for reader stupidity, but it could help keep people from confusing sloppiness with bias.

UPDATE: And this just in! Diagramming fans, have a go at the online reefer to this story:

Police say victim of home invasion chased after men who robbed his family and shot at them overnight in east Charlotte

Assign "shot at them" to two different actors by putting it in two different clauses! Ready, steady, go.


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