Friday, July 10, 2009

Say When: It's One of the Five W's

In their continuing struggle with the fundamentals of news writing, Charlotte Sun editors this morning published a story submitted by a “correspondent,” and the kids on the copy desk slapped on the headline, “Feds offering new immigration check system.”

“Nine Florida counties have been added to the list of law enforcement agencies using the federal government new secure communities and immigration check program....” reads the opener. Which prompts the reader to wonder what new system are we talking about? Was it new yesterday? New earlier this week? New last month? The correspondent never corresponds on this point -- and as it turns out, he can’t because the system isn’t new. The new parts (or better, “recent” ) are the nine counties joining.

A quick Web search uncovers that the “correspondent” has paraphrased (you know, changed word here, changed a word there) a June 19 government press release that does not call the program new. The program has been around a while. The writer doesn’t directly tell readers this; they must make a reasonable inference based on his last graf:

“Since it [database access] was issued to Florida law enforcement agencies, 8,407 matches have come through, including 787 Level 1 offenders, or aggravated felons.” Again, since when? Would that be 8,407 since yesterday? Earlier this week? Last month?

This story is a great example of a “correspondent” who has failed to take his journalism seriously enough to strive for a modicum of objectivity. Like a used car salesman, he’s trying to sell the almost-new old buggy. We expect the hype at the lemon lot, not the newspaper.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt the hed was suggested by the writer in an effort to get the story published and his freelance paycheck in mail.