Monday, September 21, 2015

Forbidden and unforbidden

I suppose someone took the summer off before returning to the preferred lede for matters coming out of Lansing:

LANSING — Flamethrowers and sky lanterns and drones, OH MY!

So it's a mere four months since:

LANSING Bed bugs and lady bugs and lice, oh my!

Cookies and brownies and Rice Krispies treats, oh my!

All this in addition to an entirely unrelated feature hed that showed up last week:

All of which should call forth the usual questions about whether anybody downtown even bothers to read the stuff before hitting the button anymore. But then comes a phenomenon to which I wish to draw your attention. Here are the main-clause verbs from all the display photo captions in Sunday's "The Blitz," a weekly (at this time of year) section comprising eight open pages devoted to Michigan and Michigan State football*:

Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge, left, catches a pass for a touchdown

Michigan State's Riley Bullough (30) was called for targeting 

Michigan State's Madre London is tackled by Air Force's Kaleel Gaines

Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge is tackled by Air Force's Jesse Washington

Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple runs the ball after an interception

Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise makes a diving touchdown run against Georgia Tech

Arbor Brewing Company owner Matt Greff, left, toasts Joey Stinson of Eastern Michigan University athletics and Brian McShane, bar manager with Arbor Brewing Company

Jamar Williams, left, and Mike Figgs with EMU athletics pour Arbor Brewing Company beers

Michigan's Ty Issac rushed for 114 yards on eight carries

Michigan's Grant Perry dives into the end zone trying to make a touchdown reception 

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock scrambles out of the pocket 

Michigan's Ty Issac scampers 76 yards for the Wolverines' third touchdown

U-M's Channing Stribling (8) and Ben Gedeon (42) tackle UNLV wide receive Devonte Boyd

U-M quarterback Jake Rudock threw for only 123 yards against UNLV

By no means is all right with the world. You might wonder, for example, who's right -- the competition, the official-looking fan site or the paper itself -- on the spelling of Ty Isaac/Issac's family name.** Or why there are so many passive verbs explaining what happened to Michigan State players, rather than telling you whether something of interest might have happened during the play. But you do see occasional flashes of competent editing: using the caption to talk about how well a player did overall or what happened on a specific play. Even more important is what you don't see: No one "celebrates" anything.

I'm not sure exactly what it means. It might just mean that this section -- for whatever episodic or systematic reason -- simply didn't carry any photos of athletes celebrating. (Or that photographers have remembered to wake up before the play is over.) Or it might mean that parts of the remnant Freep desk are trying to use cutline space to complement visual journalism: to tell you why you're seeing something, rather than telling you what you're seeing. And it could entirely be an accident. For whatever reason, it's sort of a benchmark. Other papers should strive to have celebrate-free sections.
* Yes, the Carnegie Research 1 school a few miles from where this paper is published occasionally rates a line or two. Covering it regularly might involve doing journalism, which is a challenge when it doesn't have the sort of public status that the other research schools within H-bomb radius can command.
** Or whether there are circumstances under which white guys "scamper," but that's the price of teaching the introductory doc studies seminar this year.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Or why there are so many passive verbs explaining what happened to Michigan State players, rather than telling you whether something of interest might have happened during the play."

3:22 PM, September 22, 2015  

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