Sunday, November 30, 2008

Flunking News Writing 101 in Omaha

I look at the above crime brief from the Omaha City Weekly, and I wonder what Bob Sheldon would have done if I had turned that in for Journalism 2151, Beginning Newswriting.

I mean, apart from giving me an "F" for the assignment and strongly suggesting I find a new field of interest. And apart from suggesting, perhaps, that I find something else to do with my time than hang out on the LSU campus -- or that of any other college or university.

SHELDON WAS an old-time newspaperman. Did some time at the National Enquirer. Loved snappy ledes and colorful headlines.

Didn't think much of calling homicide suspects "dumb f***s" in your copy. He was funny that way. Made a friend of mine cry once in class over far less of a journalistic sin.

God knows what might have happened had I been stupid enough to hand in something like this:
It's no surprise that the one-night shooting spree that took place on Nov. 12 in the midtown Omaha Dundee area was the work of three mentally disabled dumb f***s with ties to local gangs.
OR . . . AS PERRY WHITE might have said, "Great Caesar's ghost! Get me a libel lawyer . . . now!"

It could be, though, that our Nov. 26 item from one of Omaha's "alternative" weeklies just might have rendered my old professor speechless. Back in the day, journalism schools expected more of teen-age reporter wannabes than some publications demand of alleged adult "professionals" in 2008.

Also, it seems to me that in far too many cases -- especially in cities the size of Omaha -- arrested-development types manage to grab hold of the green eyeshades, leading the "alternative press" into a high-school hell concocted by Jeff Spicoli, just emerged through a cloud of smoke from a VW microbus. What you end up with is gratuitous sludge like the
City Weekly story above, where rank incompetence conflates itself with simple-minded notions of "narrative" and Anglo-Saxon expletives sprinkled through ill-written copy passes for "edgy."

EVERY PARAGRAPH of crap contained in half-baked rags, whether they be "mainstream" or "alternative," is a compounding tragedy for an industry with one foot in the grave already, as well as for the society that industry purports to inform.

And on a smaller scale, these journalistic Jeff Spicolis -- pretentious, poseur rubes turning out their "tasty" stories in their "gnarly" mags -- make it look like their brand of half-baked, foul-mouthed, faux-edgy dreck is about the best one might expect out of somewhere like Omaha.

Maybe it is, but I sure could have taken this city for a far smarter place than that.

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