Friday, September 08, 2006

Missed opportunity

Community aide charged
in assault at Club Vogue

The grammar's in order, the split's all right, the facts appear (mostly) OK, but this is still a weak hed choice. Why? Read the lede: "A community services aide with the Columbia Police Department ..." Oh.

A hed has limited room for detail, and here it's spent in the wrong place: the club where the arrest was made, rather than what a "community aide" might be and why we might care. Try it this way:

Civilian police employee
accused of assault at club
The police connection -- the reason this story merits a big hed and midpage play on 3A -- is in the top line. "Charged in assault" assumes that there was an assault; "accused of ..." leaves open the possibility that there wasn't.

Look for words that count, not just words that fit.

And while we're at it:

Columbia police responded at about 1 a.m. and took Omboga into custody, releasing him on his own signature after questioning, Martin said.

This is a nice illustration of why "police responded" should never appear in a news story. If they took the guy into custody, it's pretty evident that they were there. Leave out the chronology and get to the point:

Omboga was arrested about 1 a.m. and released on his own signature after questioning, Martin said.

Chorus? That saves a line. Eight lines is an inch. An inch less foam means an inch more beer.


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