Friday, October 30, 2009

Almost too strange for words

This hed is much stranger than it looks. "Murder" is a legal determination, not a medical one. It's a kind of killing, but the matters that distinguish it from justifiable or accidental killings (or lesser degrees of deliberate killings) aren't the sort of things you get to judge on the copydesk.

Granted, you see "murder" in a lot of heds written before a murder verdict comes down, but if there's anyone around who might dispute the issue, even an inept or tabloid-hyperbolic desk will at least wait for a cue before screaming MURDER! Ideally, that'd be at least a charge of murder, but at any rate, desks try not to get offside on a story: just as the hed can't say "dictator" unless the story does, a hed usually won't say "murder" unless it's cued by the story.

Now things even stranger. Here's the lede credited to the AP, as it appears at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

DETROIT — A mosque on Friday dismissed as "utterly preposterous" the FBI's allegations that its murdered leader was part of a radical Islamic group.

Which is nice, but not exactly what the AP wrote:

DETROIT -- A mosque on Friday dismissed as "utterly preposterous" the FBI's allegations that its slain leader was part of a radical Islamic group.

That's from a paper that usually puts the wire up untouched, but "slain leader" is the wording the AP uses in its story for Saturday ayems, in the budget line on the Michigan wire, and in other stories and sidebars today and yesterday. (If you haven't been keeping up, the imam was shot and killed during a raid Wednesday; as the AP puts it, "the FBI says he resisted arrest inside a warehouse and fired a gun.")

This can't be an accident. Fox must have changed "slain" to "murdered." Which fits with Fox's approach to news in general, except that here, it turns the FBI into murderers and puts a new twist on a character who -- oh, let's let Fox tell us what it thought yesterday in its own inimitable prose:

In a federal complaint, FBI Special Agent, Gary Leone describes Abdullah advocates for the "spread of Islam through violent jihad and violence against the United States government and against law enforcement."

For a desk to decide on its own that this series of events constitutes a "murder" is a distinctly ideological decision. Fox makes a lot of ideological decisions with AP copy, but they run in the exact opposite direction. In effect, it's libeling the FBI agents and exonerating the folks it usually tends to libel. It'll be interesting to see what Fox comes up with next.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. That's just ... weird.

Fox calling the FBI murderers? What next?

11:39 AM, October 31, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I put in a word for my pet peeve in this vein? Whenever I hear a journo say that someone killed by thugs was "executed", I want to throw things.

1:56 PM, October 31, 2009  

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