Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lede of the morning

Today's example of the grab-bag nature of news syntax:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police late Friday released the names of officers who were fired or involved in more than 400 suspensions in the last five years -- the first time the public has been allowed to inspect a police department's disciplinary records under a new North Carolina law.

Upon careful consideration, it appears to be something like this: Names of cops who were fired or suspended during the past five years have been released. More than 400 suspensions have been handed out over that time. Any reason not to just hang on to that second bit of information there for the second graf?

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Blogger John Cowan said...

I think the em dash there tells all. The syntax is an attempt to maintain a state of breathless excitement about what is basically a dull procedural story: zomg, you can find out which cops have been fired or suspended now!!!!

1:32 PM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I have to admit I was wondering about how you stayed a cop with 400+ suspensions in five years. That's a union with teeth!

9:07 PM, November 22, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect the circumlocution was an attempt to include officers who served suspensions and officers who somehow successfully appealed suspensions. I've seen reporters use the same gambit for stats about "foreclosure activity" sted "foreclosures."
-- Tom

9:20 PM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

I agree on the "involved in" circumlocution, but I don't think that's behind the faulty coordination. The lede gives you two kinds of cops: fired, and involved in more than 400 suspensions.

I could buy "fired or involved in the suspension process," though my first reaction is to kick it back to the writer with a request for clarification and clues.

11:51 PM, November 22, 2010  

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