Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Forbidden ledes: Not your typical

All forms of this lede are permanently barred, under all circumstances:

The masked man who locked a fake bomb to the neck of an Australian millionaire's teenage daughter did not look like your ordinary violent criminal. The gray-haired attacker wielded a baseball bat but wore beige trousers and a light-colored dress shirt, rolled up at the elbows.

Is the AP going to enlighten us on what "your ordinary violent criminal" looks like? I'd be kind of tipped off by the baseball bat and the balaclava, I think, but maybe the gray-haired violent criminals in AP's neck of the woods don't wear light-colored dress shirts before Labor Day or something. I'm trying very hard not to think "did not look like your ordinary violent criminal" is AP-speak for "wasn't black."

AP writers shouldn't leave that impression, of course, but AP editors shouldn't pass it along, either, and AP members can certainly consider calling the control bureau to complain after they spike it themselves. But generally, that's why you avoid proclaiming that anyone is or isn't your typical single mom, college student, crazed Vietnam veteran, party activist or whatever: (a) there is no such thing, and (b) it's a good idea to keep your biases and preconceptions to yourself until you get over them.

Hard to see what makes this pedestrian feature the top news story on the frontpage, even at Lexington, but that's a different rant.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was doing wire pages eight or nine years ago, the "collar bomber" wouldn't have had to run prominently -- or at all. There wouldn't have been an Internet frenzy about the story to alert me to its importance.

There also would have been a lot of other wire copy to choose from. These days, not so much. At the rural paper where I work, the editors get half a dozen stories now if they're lucky. If an A1 assignment falls through, there isn't much choice about what to plug the hole with.

9:36 PM, August 18, 2011  
Blogger fev said...

I'm glad (fingers crossed) that we're on track to have AP service for classroom use again this year. I'm way out of touch with the rhythm of the wire.

7:55 PM, August 23, 2011  

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