Thursday, January 14, 2010

Talk run for gov fuels buzz

OK, OK, it's not fair to take a single line of a hed in isolation, but -- you know, when the actual print paper arrives on its first visit since Sunday, and the coffee hasn't worked its magic yet, a line like "talk run for gov fuels buzz" just sort of sings. Talk, don't run? Are gov fuels like biofuels? So many nouns, so many verbs, so little time.

It would help, of course, if someone downtown still remembered the quaint charm of nicely phrased heds. Infinitives, phrasal verbs and the like fall so much more nicely on the eye when they're kept together. (Hint: Shift-return after "House.") But that's only the beginning.

For a long time now, ever since I worked for a paper where the chunk of Atex space set aside for business copy was ".bus" rather than ".biz," I've been in favor of the idea that the shortened version of a word is a word unto itself, spellingly. "Bus" isn't short for "business"; it's short for "autobus." Business news appears in a biz section, not a bus section; you talk into a mike, not a mic; the occupant of the White House is the prez, not the pres. So if you're a broadsheet pretending to be a tabloid, seems to me you want "guv" for your shorthand. How else are you going to write Luv Guv when push comes to shuv?

So far we're piling up nouns and shifting registers sloppily, and we haven't even gotten to the Stupid Question in the 1A lede hed. It echoes the second graf (for once, the online version is pretty much exactly the 1A story as it ran), which notes that fuel is being added to rumors of the said meddling, but that's the closest we come to addressing the question -- here or in the expanded version inside that serves as a quasi-jump. The story claims a buzz but never shows it. We can't even ask that the hed tell us, rather than asking us, because there's nothing there to tell.

"Meddling" is a weirdly out-of-tune verb too, and not just for the naughty meaning* I had never heard of until I looked it up. You'd expect it at Fox, which could get "Prez meddles with evening" out of a story in which the poor guy said "good morning," but not from the reliably sycophantic Freep. Which doesn't make it wrong; it just underscores the need for something that, under the right light, if you turn your head and squint a little, might actually look like evidence.

Things get even stranger in the text:
Gaffney's cautionary remarks suggest that although Ilitch's business pedigree is strong, the Democratic race remains wide open.

Oh, wow. So even though a businessperson/trustee visited the White House this, a race that was blown open only last week remains wide open?

Then there's the sort of lede that makes you wonder if anybody reads the stuff at all before the "send" button is hit:

Michigan Republicans, like political partisans everywhere, won't deny they enjoy confusion among Democrats.

That certainly does create a narrow meaning of "political partisans," wouldn't you say?

You can see why the journalism of politics sounds really dull if you do it right. But that's not a very good justification for the extreme level of dumb it sounds when you do it wrong.

* The stuff you learn! And transitive, at that.

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