Friday, December 04, 2009

Where Are the Editors?

I've seen many badly written headlines lately. Where are the editors?

A headline out of The St. Pete Times today reads "Deputies: Man who robbed bank dressed as a woman captured".

It took me a minute to figure out what the heck this meant, because the sentence is structured badly. If you write for a living, shouldn't you be able to put something together that reads a little smoother? As I read the headline, I initially saw it in my mind's eye as:

"Man who robbed bank dressed, as a woman was captured." I could see the man struggling to get his pants on, as his female accomplice was getting tackled by cops. After this initial puzzling impression, I realized that a bank robber was impersonating a woman when he robbed the bank, and had just been captured by deputies.

Yikes. After that mental exercise before my first cup of coffee, I passed on reading the rest of the article. Instead, I moved on to "Cody the convenience store dog must go, state warns", which really needed two additional commas in the headline. Are commas that expensive these days? Are we rationing them?

But my favorite headline remains Bush Putin.


daveawayfromhome said...

You cant afford good proofreaders if all your budget is being diverted to pay off the loans the owners took out to buy the newspaper.

Nor reporters, for that matter.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Well at least you figured the first one out. I had to wait for your explanation (which I assume was correct?)

Becca said...

I find so many mistakes while reading - even in books! But I see mistakes on blogs too...I think people just don't care anymore!

Paul Nichols said...

I'm back.

I'm with you. Local newspapers have to compete with USA Today and tabloids. They aren't faring that well. So they've resorted to looking and writing like them.

The secret to those ugly headlines lies in a major shift in newspaper publications. Pages are laid out, headlined, illustrated and captioned to fit the 8 -15 age bracket--just like the tabloids. Honest. The front page is usually the worst. Often headlines are beneath the crease because some goofy photo consumes the top half of the page. Papers are narrower; many have reduced column width.

When's the last time you saw a "Who, what, when, where, why" lead paragraph? Writing, punctuation, grammar, proofing and the love of the written word is no longer important. But money is. And it's getting harder and harder for newspapers to find it. Subscriptions and newsstand sales are dropping steadily. So owners have resorted to selling and delivering all kinds of inserts to your home every day. But not well-written news.

Times, they are a-changing.

Sam said...

That headline is NOT as badly structured as it sounds. Only punctuation marks are missing. Read the statement as
Man, dressed as a woman, captured.
Therefore, the original statement [i.e., Man (who robbed the bank), dressed as a woman, captured. ] also is structurally correct.

Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed said...

My favorite one from our local rag said something along the lines, "Local woman taken to hospital where she suffered numerous broken bones!"

English as a language is changing very rapidly. Just read something written in the 19th century compared to today for evidence of just how much it has changed in less than 200 years. I can't imagine how the headlines will be in another 50 that I hope to be around.

Paul Nichols said...

My favorite. A woman was shot in the fracas and the bullet remains in her yet.