Thursday, May 05, 2005

desk notes

HOW NOT TO WRITE C-DECKS: If the main hed says "Investigation: Officer's shot accidental" (5A Thursday), can't we find anything better for the C-deck than "The investigation concluded officer's shot was accidental and improper"? C-decks are supposed to supplement heds, not repeat them. Yes, they use articles and forms of the verb "to be" and the like. That's why they're called "C-decks." If you're going to ignore that rule, at least be consistent -- don't put the article before "investigation" but not before "officer."

DETAILS: The piece the constable fired through the floor is a "12-gauge," not a ".12 gauge," shotgun. See the "weapons" entry in your stylebook (which even explains why the style for a .410 is .410). And the folks who released the name are Columbia police, not Columbia Police. Isn't there a list over the copydesk spelling out the capitalizations we use on cop references?

RTFP: "Travelers declining at airport" (5A Thursday) is, by all appearances, true -- but why read this story if you read the same numbers in last Friday's 1A centerpiece? This one's about a meeting to discuss whether anything will be done about it. That's what the hed needed to reflect.

IT'S A START: Glad to see Gaza City getting in the paper (7A Monday) without being relocated to Israel. Relocating it to the West Bank, unfortunately, isn't much better, but at least it's a start. Copyeds, you might not believe this, but one of the best things you can do to keep corrections out of the paper is to have the atlas at your side and open every time you edit an international story. Judging from the staff ledes this week that have mentioned "Copper County" (7A Thursday) and "Roger Street" (1A Tuesday), it wouldn't hurt to apply a similar practice to local stuff as well.

JUDGE THE CONTENT, NOT THE BYLINE: Supplemental news services are great for offering readers something that isn't available from the fishwrap across town and for providing stuff -- usually context, depth and connections -- that the AP doesn't. The flip side is that a story that's chosen for context or scope needs to be given space to play. The LA Times piece on 3A Tuesday, "U.S. inquiry exonerates soldiers in fatal shooting of Italian agent," is, at three paragraphs, a brief for all practical purposes. And briefs should never -- right, that's NEVER -- have 67-word ledes. Note how much ground the AP manages to cover in 31 words next door to that one.

ALMOST: Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation isn't the "official name" for the School of the Americas (1A Thursday). It's the new name of the thing that used to be the School of the Americas.

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