Sunday, October 05, 2008

Entirely out-of-tune hed of the day

Can't find an image of the page, but here's the hed as it apparently ran on the N&O's local front:

DVD rattles Islam's apostles

The lede is on the tangential and anecdotal side:
Since the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001, Muslims in the Triangle and across the United States have lived under a shadow, wondering whether their faith would be blamed for the acts of a few.

Recently, they were reminded of just how terrorism has shaped some perceptions of Muslims when The News & Observer, along with other papers in 14 states, distributed as a paid insert a DVD called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West."

... but if you're starting to form the opinion that this is a Regular People story, you're right. Which means that if the copyed who wrote the hed had been looking for exactly the wrong word, it would have been hard to do better than "apostles."

Is there a potentially legitimate usage we're missing? Let's see: "One sent on an errand," or a messenger? Nope. The first missionary to plant Christianity (OK, let's say "a monotheistic faith") in a region, or an especially successful missionary? Oh, come on.* Leader of a new principle or system -- did somebody not notice that we were talking about Real People, with Real Driveways and Real Jobs and Real Neighbors? Apostles as in Acts-of-The? Maybe, in a fairly standard Dumb Extension of one religion's terms to another religion, you could refer to the companions as apostles, but again, see Real People above.

I'm not suggesting that the hed is offensive, or that perceived offense is the only (or most important) thing hed writers need to be concerned about. The problem is that the hed is misleading to the point of being utterly incomprehensible. It should have been kicked back to the rim.

I've heard these discussions before, and at this point the defense tends to offer something like "I meant it in the figurative sense" (or "we just have a difference of opinion about that"**). To which two points: 1) You can call it what you want, but there is no "figurative sense" that corresponds to what you seem to have meant. 2) Readers can't see what you meant. All they can see is what you said.

* There seem to be some differing claims about this, but about four miles down Woodward is a building marked as the site of the first mosque in America.
** Sure do! I think incomprehensible heds are bad, and you apparently don't!



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