Thursday, August 14, 2008

Local Newspaper Prints Shitty Story

I read a story in the local paper entitled, "Suspect in Brookfield gas station robbery pleads not guilty," which would not get a passing grade in a basic newswriting course, and it disgusts me that any editor was incompetent enough to let this go to print.

The hook seems newsy enough, concisely written.

"BROOKFIELD -- The Patricia Drive man accused of robbing a Federal Road gas station at gunpoint last month pleaded not guilty in Danbury Superior Court Tuesday.

The man, Christopher Braun, 25, will return to court Sept. 10. He faces charges of first-degree robbery and fifth-degree larceny and was released on a written promise to appear in court after his arrest July 31."

Then it gets into the details of the robbery and how Braun became a witness. But it's not until the last few paragrahs that we learn Braun turned himself in and signed a statement admitting to the robbery!

"After Braun arrived at the police station, the affidavit said, Lamparelli advised Braun he was also a suspect in the robbery, at which point Braun agreed to waive his rights and cooperate, giving the detectives a sworn statement saying he had perpetrated the stick-up and used his mother's black Acura to get to and from the Sunoco station.

Braun told the detectives he had robbed the gas station with an unloaded pellet gun and made off with between $150 and $200. Later, he brought the detectives to his house, where he retrieved the pellet gun and a hooded sweatshirt he had worn during the robbery, according to the affidavit."

The complication that he already signed a statement admitting his being responsible for the robbery makes it an entirely different story from a man simply pleading not guilty, and that information should be introduced in the very beginning of the article.

It should read something like,
"The Patricia Drive man accused of robbing a Federal Road gas station at gunpoint last month pleaded not guilty in Danbury Superior Court Tuesday, despite signing a written statement admitting his responsibility for the robbery."

The angle of the story should be focused more, instead of simply recapping the robbery, to address the nuance of why the man plead guilty despite this statement. Did he recant the statement, or did he maintain his position, but not find the charges to be accurate? Ah, and herein lies the issue -- nuance. To answer those questions would require more reporting than reading an affidavit, and heaven forbid a reporter for a local rag actually give a shit.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Essay Brainstorm: Writers as Engineers of Language

Form: Essay Brainstorm Session
Word Count: 360

Language gives us a way of understanding ourselves. Native speakers of different languages vary in their understanding of themselves by sheer virtue of what they can express verbally. Every language and dialect has evolved differently from culture to culture, and even individual to individual. Every individual has his or her own "personal dialect" which consists of considerably fewer words and phrases and ideas than the language he or she claims to speak.

A personal dialect is similar to a vocabulary, but also includes all of the cognitive implications of a vocabulary. If one uses the word "love" for dispassionate sexual intercourse, passionate sexual intercourse, infatuation, and what is typically understood as "romantic love," then his vocabulary consists of the word "love," and his personal dialect consists of the linguistic and cognitive limitations posed by this vocabulary.

The language of a group of people is the convergence of their personal dialects -- the mutually understood words, phrases, and ideas. Language evolves from the introduction and acceptance of personal dialects into the mainstream language. And with language, so does evolve our understanding of, and potential to understand, ourselves. We tend to think our language can be used to express anything we want, but writers are constantly in battle with words that don't exist. They see this as a shortcoming in themselves, but in reality, it is a shortcoming in language, until some writer comes along and offers a new way to do it. In this way, language is not unlike technology, and writers not unlike engineers, engineering the technology of expression.

Remember that evolution only means survival of the fittest and not necessarily survival of the best (although some might argue that fitness is the only quantitative evaluation of "best", I would argue that there is none). Sometimes words are combined in a beautiful, elegant manner which gives us enormous insight into the world, life, and ourselves, new unconventional phrases obliterate tired, meaningless cliches, and we experience the world with greater vibrancy than ever before. However, sometimes language evolves in a less than beautiful or expressive way in favor of any number of cultural priorities which supersede expression and beauty: brevity, humor, edginess.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Excerpted Sentence: She never felt pain

Form: Prose (Short Story Excerpt)
Word Count: 14
She never felt pain, but rather, an acute awareness that she was being hurt.