Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Going overboard?

Never mind whether it was right or wrong for the Iran sailors to sell their stories, I can't help feeling a pang of sympathy for their claims of over-zealous reporting of their release.

I don't suppose I'd be too chuffed if I’d survived a harrowing ordeal only to be depicted as grovelling before a dictator I'd deliberately greeted with nonchalence.

I do know we rarely favour the weaker verbs when it comes to painting a picture for readers though.

Frank Lampard must’ve felt hard done by when he read in the Mirror that he “cowered” when a fan ran on to the pitch and took a swing. I saw the incident. He ducked rather neatly and was back on his toes in a snap like a boxer.

I’ve been around red tops long enough to know what it's like to hand stories to subs with the instruction: ‘It’s all there. Just work up a bit’. I’ve also seen stories undersold because we haven’t been incisive enough in our description.

One moment springs to mind though. A story about a runaway car “careering” into a shopping arcade would have been dramatic enough without the sub’s intro which began “Terrified shoppers fled as . . .” It wouldn’t have been so bad but for the last par from the witness who said “It was a miracle no-one was in the way.”

The story may have been otherwise well written but the intro and payoff matched like roast beef and custard, which is a point the “witness” made when he rang to ask who, other than him, had failed to spot a single fleeing shopper, let alone a terrified one.

He was as right as the “Irate councillor” who rang me to tell me that, yes, he did insist on getting an answer from the chairman of planning but had barely raised his voice, let alone “raged” or “angrily retorted” when he failed to get one.

And there wasn’t a miracle either. I just didn’t want to point it out at the time.

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