All of us who play around with putting words on paper (or Word document) know that it’s not an exact science. We shy away from being too critical of others trying to make a living doing the same. But there do come times when you have to say something, especially when you find it in a newspaper that is supposedly doing straight journalism.
Case in point. Our local Strib ran a story (as I read it in its online version) on Tuesday. A sad, gruesome account about the disturbed man who admitted in court to killing a pet dog and taking part in the beheading of the poor animal. Horrible stuff, but could and should be reported, if only to show that there are shreds of justice and decency left in a pretty tattered world.
Then the story gets just weird, in terms of its description, anyway. The perp is in court, admitting to his heinous act. But we don’t just get the facts, we get much more. Here is the exact copy as it appeared yesterday in the Strib story:
“His voice — hoarse, slightly high-pitched and almost too soft to hear — was reminiscent of a debarked dog.”
What the... a “debarked dog???” In an apparent, close to nauseating, attempt to call forth the spirit of the deceased animal, we get what sounds like a high school sophomore’s attempt at Edgar Allen Poe knock-off.
I tried to be fair, thought maybe I was missing something, looked up my Merriam-Webster and found the only thing close to that word has to do with getting off a ship. I’m still open to correction, let me know if I’m still missing it.
As you can see from the online version that appears today, the "debarked dog" comment is nowhere to be seen. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed something was amiss.
Wordplay aside, what happens in this sentence is much more serious. We’re supposedly reading a newspaper account of a court-room scene. We end up with a weird editorial phrase that just makes you wince.
As my wise colleague said, “if you’re going to editorialize in a news story, at least make it well written.” That is strike one, strike two, Star-Tribune.