Wednesday, March 22, 2006

But on a more positive note . . .

While perusing the front page of the SJ-R this morning, I read something that caused me to wince, a feeling that it is probably quite familiar to regulars readers of this blog.


The words that gave me an uncomfortable pause were in a story about two traffic fatalities that may have been caused by the recent snow storm. In transitioning from the story’s lede about the deaths to the second paragraph that reported that there were few other significant problems associated with the weather, the reporters chose a phrase that, for me, came across as inappropriate. But you be the judge.

Two central Illinois teenagers died in a traffic accident near Girard late Monday that might have been connected to an overnight snowstorm.

Other than that, the heavy, wet snow driven by 30-plus mph winds caused no more problems than most other storms . . .

It’s the “other than that” that troubles me. Although I am positive that this wasn’t the reporters’ intention, the second sentence sounds somewhat dismissive of what was related in the lede. It’s just a little too nonchalant, sort of like when Elizabeth does a short piece on the latest suicide bombing in the West Bank before sending it over to a chipper Gus Gordon for a preview of tonight’s weather.

There is also a bit of what could be construed as gallows humor in the way that sentence is constructed. At the risk of sounding callow, I admit that I was immediately reminded of the old joke: “Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” Although this recollection could also be attributed in part to a headline that also appeared on today’s front page: “Legionnaires' Disease Death Linked to Lincoln.” Really? I thought Wilkes-Booth’s bullet did him in.

This isn’t a major gaffe by any means and may not be a gaffe at all. I’m curious as to how many other people found it a poor choice of words. It could be that I’m one of but a few readers who gave any thought to it at all. I say this not to suggest that I am more discerning than thou. Rather, it’s just meant to demonstrate that as rich and expressive as the written language can be, sometimes a writer’s words can perceived in such a was as to betray their intended meaning. Remember that the next time I write something that offends you.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. Not a good choice of words. I work in the safety field and we try to save lives not dismiss them.

Dave said...

But other than that, did you like the SJ-R's coverage?

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Dave,

I thought that overall, it was an informative article and the type of local coverage that I like to see on the front page. I suppose I should have said that, but I've come to expect good coverage from the SJ-R so it doesn't seem noteworthy to mention it.

My quibble was with a single phrase that seemed to strike the wrong chord. Perhaps I'm delving deeply into the minutiae, but Anon 9:27 was also left with the same impression.

What did you think of the coverage?

Dan

Monkey Boy said...

Dave,

What the hell does it matter if Dan liked the rest of the coverage? Is there some kind of point you are trying to make? Was the article a Pulitzer Prize winner besides the fact that it was insensitive to two teenagers deaths?

ThirtyWhat said...

I agree ... the sentence was dismissive. Not a mind-blowing gaff ... but hurtful, nonetheless.