Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Feather-footed through the plashy fen

Pending an explanation from the originating paper, one is inclined to view this as the sort of foreign correspondence that would have made Evelyn Waugh proud:

The young woman at the heart of an alleged atrocity by members of the U.S. military knew she had attracted the attention of the soldiers who manned the checkpoint near her home, neighbors say. And she didn't like it.
(Always glad to see some on-scene reporting)

Neither did her family, and they made a plan to protect her, their neighbors told reporters over the weekend.

But it wasn't enough.

Abeer Qasim Hamza is the young woman identified in news reports as the alleged target of Steven D. Green, the former Army private who was charged Monday with her rape and the killing of her and three other family members in March.
("News reports" and "told reporters"? Where's Staff Writer's part in this?)

A U.S. military official has described the attack on the family's home south of Baghdad as "totally premeditated," telling The Associated Press that the soldiers apparently "studied" the family for about a week before carrying out the raid.

The affidavit detailing the allegations against Green doesn't name his alleged victims, but it says the woman he's accused of raping was estimated by her attackers to be about 25.

People in her town, including the mayor of Mahmoudiya, tell reporters she was actually a teenager. A death certificate viewed by The Washington Post puts Abeer at 15.
(Hmm. So far, the AP and the Post seem to be doing all the work. Except the breathless narrative and the bizarre constructions like "People in her town, including the mayor of Mahmoudiya." Glad we seem to have settled on a transliteration, though.)

... Army investigators outlined their evidence against Green and several other soldiers to an FBI agent, who described their case in a federal affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.

OK. The reader can be forgiven at this point for assuming that Writer got the byline because he read the affidavit. Fine. But in that case, why isn't that the lede, with the on-scene impressions credited to the writers who ran the risks involved in getting them?

We aren't suggesting that this sort of byline padding rises to the level of plagiarism. But it's hard to see it rising above the level of fiction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has all the earmarks of an upper- or midlevel editor sentencing a reporter to match what others have published. After the initial onslaught of reporters, witnesses often duck and cover, leaving the last guy in line to scrounge for what crumbs of source are left.
At most papers bylines go on all locally produced copy. Somebody, somewhere should have said "There's less here than meets the eye" and scratched off the name. "From Wire Reports" or a close cousin is all this merits, but it all goes back to the assigning editor. Command performances often originate when a paper is footing the bill for a reporter to be present at the creation of news and is bound and determined to get its money's worth.

12:11 PM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

I'd kind of like if there was a Pulitzer category for saying "less here than meets the eye."

10:36 PM, July 08, 2006  

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