Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hed noun phrase plummet flock mystery

Ready to play "write the lede from the BBC hed," noun phrase joy prang fanciers?

An ambulance technician who chose not to respond to what proved to be a fatal heart attack when he was on a tea break has been told he can keep his job.

I don't know about you, but the claim quotes kinda spoil the purity for me.

US scientists believe fireworks may have caused thousands of birds to fall from the sky over an Arkansas town on New Year's Eve.

Here, alas, the claim quotes contradict the text: However, she stopped short of declaring the mystery solved, saying further tests on the dead birds are planned.

... or at least that's how I read it. British readers, is it in-bounds to use the claim quotes for an assertion that someone isn't actually making?

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Anonymous Ed Latham said...

No, it isn't! In fact, both these heds break the (fairly simple) rules for claim quotes, which are as follows:

i) If you're making a categorical statement in the newspaper's voice (PRESIDENT ARRANGED FOR WATERGATE BUILDING TO BE BUGGED), no claim quotes are required: the newspaper is, by implication, assuring its readers of the truth of the statement and staking its reputation on the veracity of the claim being made.

ii) If you are reporting the existence of a newsworthy assertion being made by a third party, but do not wish to attach the paper's imprimatur to the truth of that assertion, claim quotes are required (FATAL SHOT 'CAME FROM GRASSY KNOLL'). In effect, the quotes are journalistic shorthand for a phrase such as "...claims source".

iii) The words in the quotation marks don't actually have to be a direct quote as long as they accurately summarise the view of the person making the claim. And that's where the second hed falls down, of course: in order for 'is solved' to be in the hed, somebody in the story has to assert that a solution has been found.

But the first hed is also problematic: the claim quotes are round 'tea break', which would suggest that one side is alleging that the ambulance driver was on a tea break, while he denies it. But that doesn't seem to be the case: judging by the story, it seems to be common ground that he was, indeed, on a tea break. Undisputed facts don't need claim quotes round them, either.

5:25 AM, January 05, 2011  
Anonymous Picky said...

This Britsh reader seconds that.

The second head is plain wrong. The first looks like the sub didn't have the courage to give us a fully fledged noun pile-up.

10:30 AM, January 05, 2011  

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