Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 5: Alliteration

Entire Country in Chaos, that's Day 1. Local Residents Open Hearts, comma, Wallets: Day 2. (Optional: Local Residents Continue Reaching Out.) Now we're up to Stupid Alliteration Day -- can we have a "Rescue amid the Rubble," somebody?

You Usual Suspects out there know that we're never going to complain that there's too much international news in the daily mix. But it's probably time to point out that editors have a particular duty in cases like this to make sure that the news they're running really is news, rather than the handiest thing that fits their preconceptions of what must be going on in distant places when disasters strike. If you fell for this NYT lede:

As the focus Saturday began turning away from Haitians lost to those who were spared, a sprawling assembly of international officials and aid workers struggled to fix a troubled relief effort after Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

... you really ought to explain what empirical event or events justify the assertion in the subordinate clause. What happened on Saturday to make "focus began turning" truer than it was on Friday? Anything?

Did you start the Sunday run with the AP's "Precious water, food and early glimmers of hope began reaching parched and hungry earthquake survivors Saturday on the streets of this shattered city" and bump it later for the Times's "While countries and relief agencies have showered aid on Haiti, little of it is reaching increasingly desperate Haitians who lack food, clean water or shelter." If so, can you explain why?

All things equal, more news is better than less news. But not all news is equal. Not all of it is even news. And first impressions are, well ... "And there goes a United Nations armored tank."

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