Monday, October 09, 2017

Flying verbs: A user's manual

Friends of the Flying Verb, rejoice: Now there's a journalism textbook to explain it all for you! Assuming you're on track to graduate in 1943, at least.

Under the subhead "Implied subject," here's how Radder & Stempel's "Newspaper Editing, Make-Up and Headlines"* introduces the example above:

The subject may not be expressed in the first deck. It may be implied in the first deck and expressed immediately in the second, provided it is the first word in the second deck. ... Some editors consider it bad form to run headlines in which the first deck has an implied subject.

The book cautions against using the flyer "if the verb might be understood to be in the imperative mode," and the examples have plural implied subjects: "Hear Bible Scholar" and "Rob Los Angeles Bank" (followed by "Pair Flees in Automobile"):

A few newspapers have a rule against beginning any headline with a verb, holding that even the third-person singular form might be confused with the imperative.

The section on writing heds about speeches fits the specification exactly:
... though many, if not most, shops that employed the Flying Verb were far more flexible. Here's the World's Greatest Newspaper, reporting on the dustup that eventually became Terminiello** v. Chicago:
The deck is "Three policemen injured outside hall"; I have trouble seeing them as the subject of "seize."

UK readers will be happy to know that there's also a justification for claim quotes, also from the section on reporting about speeches:
When the thought to be expressed is too long to go into the first bank with the name, some newspapers permit the copyreader to enclose the speaker's statement in quotation marks and let it stand alone in the first deck. The words need not necessarily be the exact words of the speaker. If they are not, the quotation mark merely indicates that someone made the statement.

Further insights on the flyer, or formal guidance for the art of the claim quote, always welcome. Thanks to Michael Fuhlhage*** for the loan of the textbook.

* Second edition, published in 1942. The first, in 1924, was called "Newspaper Headlines and Make-Up." Radder was a former NYT rimrat who taught at Indiana; Stempel, a student when the first edition was coming together, put in some time at the New York Sun and elsewhere before joining the academic ranks.
** "Self-styled Father Coughlin of the South," as the Trib put it.
*** The one, the only, the coiner of the phrase "Donner Party comma" for the comma of direct address ("Let's eat, Grandma").

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