Hey there. We spent the weekend on the road, which explains the unfortunate, er, spareness of the joint these days. Sorry about that. I thought I’d have time to update, but I indulged myself in turkey, retailing and Bugdom. Mostly at my sister’s house, in Columbus.
Columbus is having a run of bad luck of late. If you watch CNN, you must know there’s been quote an unexplained rash of highway shootings on the city’s outerbelt unquote. Quote officials are unwilling to call the shootings the work of a sniper but worried residents are still traveling that stretch of I-270 with increased awareness of the potential dangers unquote.
See how well I can talk that journalese shit? Just made that stuff up. Just now.
Anyway, the not-sniper has hit perhaps as many as 11 cars in the area, although ballistics link only two cases yet. In one, a 62-year-old woman was killed. But police don’t know too much more than that (that they’re telling). It’s early in the investigation, they don’t want to start a panic, etc.
All this leads to an involuntary shudder in those of us who’ve worked for new-style flood-the-zone editors. I’m imagining the staff meeting in which editors sit around and brainstorm half a dozen or more story ideas. These stories may or may not match the facts at hand, but any mention of this will be considered the mark of a disloyal worker not ready for management. Reporters will be sent out to chase them down, while graphic artists stay back in the newsroom to come up with an appropriately terrifying map/headline package: CITY SHOT BY FEAR, maybe, or “NOT A SNIPER” — YET. At the end of it all will be an impressively wrapped fact sausage, along with some heavy seasoning — in-depth coverage of the victim’s funeral “‘She was a saint,’ said the victim’s best friend.”), a slice-of-life piece on motorists who drive through the FEAR ZONE or something.
Two reporters will call in sick the next day. One will consider a career change to telemarketing. Another will drink late into the night and stare at the wall, wondering how it all went so horribly wrong.
So it was nice, after watching TV reporters wave press releases in live standups, to see the Big D, the Columbus Dispatch, the city’s non-flashy daily, do a mere two logical stories for Saturday, the news update and a sidebar on motorists’ avoidance on the area.
“Just wait until Sunday,” Alan said, grimly.
On Sunday, the lead story? EMERALD ASH BORER CONFIRMED IN CITY TREES. The shootings were played down, stripped down the side of Page One. The funeral picture was inside, shot from a discreet distance, and the news of same mentioned in two paragraphs.
Dare I say? I was impressed. Sometimes the old-fashioned way — let the story grow from the ground up, rather than the top down — works just fine.