Saturday, February 9, 2008

Post Traumatic Newspaper Prose

The sheriff is wrapping up a five-day search for a missing man, a former marine who was evidently in the throes of a post-traumatic war flashback. Charlotte Sun staff writer Carolyn Quinn's lead this morning:
HARBOUR HEIGHTS -- Around 3:30 Friday afternoon, a slight grayness had begun to blunt the once-harsh sunlight. Charlotte County Sheriff's Lt. Rickey Hobbs stood behind a strip of yellow police tape, talking to Becky Hall, her sister, Marge Baker, and ther mother, Melba Baker.
Quinn forgets she writes not for magazine audience but for newspaper readers -- readers who expect good old fashioned journalism. Old Word Wolf is sure all the Sun editors really, really liked her atmospheric weather report, but the grayness blunting the afternoon has apparently dulled their sense of purpose, as well. Everyone is following this story and there's no need to sex it up with lines better suited to a workshop over at the Peace River Writers forum.

Maybe the writer's forum could help Quinn understand restrictive and non-restrictive commas, but that's probably too much grammar for the purple prosarians.

Instead, we'll take a stroll over to the cliché department, where there's always a shelf of literary soft pitches, no editing necessary, ready to type and send. (Normally, I wouln't bother with the sports guys -- a league of their own, journalism-wise -- but this one ended up on the front page of the DeSoto Sun, waaaay out of its field.)

The news is a baseball team intends to move operations sometime next year into a local stadium, which is undergoing a $27-million renovation. Executive Sports Editor John Fineran's lead (count the slow, low, inside balls):

The marriage between the Tampa Bay Rays and Charlotte County was celebrated everywhere you looked Friday morning, afternoon and evening in our little corner of paradise.

Two of the clichés were so compelling the headline writer couldn't resist the echo:
Rays, Charlotte County celebrate happy union

Come on, guys; this deal has been in the works long enough for an executive sport editor to write a big day lead that's more than a triple snooze.

And what about readers who don't see celebration everywhere in their little corners of paradise? There's not one single celebratory vision of this event visible anywhere in DeSoto County, Arcadia, or even in key corners of Port Charlotte and downtown Punta Gorda, all of which I visited before lunch today. "Everywhere you look" must have been restricted to everywhere YOU looked, John.
OWW's advice is same as above: Know thy audience. Don't be lazy. Stick to the news.

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