Saturday, September 21, 2013

Then why did he?

Show of hands here: How many of you figured from the hed and the lede that the story's about the alleged motive for the shooting? Well, too bad:

If Butler had won a $1-million prize, he would have known better than to try to cash it at a party store, attorney Joe Niskar said in his opening statement today, rejecting what he said were the stories circulating about the case.

... Niskar said police, desperate to solve an unsolved murder, got the wrong man. The SUV on the surveillance tape could have been blue or purple, he said, and Butler, with his distinctive white hair, did not match the description eyewitnesses gave of the driver.

That's the sort of confusion copy editors are supposed to fix, not amplify in bigger type.

And while we're on hed ambiguity, spare a moment for "more common than thought." It's a pretty frequent construction, and in most cases it doesn't actually carry the sort of ambiguity you could technically impute to it:

CDC: Lyme Disease More Common Than Thought

Caregiver-fabricated illness in children more common than thought

In this Drudge hed, though, one can be forgiven for agreeing:



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