When newspapers fail the sniff test

Dateline: Thu 26 May 2011


Did anyone else laugh aloud at the lead on the May 20 Page 1 Indianapolis Star story, about the Guy family of Shelbyville (the family who disappeared along with their stalking son and their adopted baby, only to be found in Florida allegedly in fear for their lives -- because the teen stalker had become the stalkee).

Oh, Lord.

The story began,

"They're the all-American family.

"The tall, stately father, a preacher with a soothing voice. The loyal wife and mother plays piano at church. Their son, a teen with a steady job right out of high school.

"But suddenly last week, the Guys, of Shelbyville, went rogue."

Now, there are a lot of things you can say about Robert and Deborah Guy, son Joseph Guy, 18, and their adopted toddler, but one thing they are not is that warmed-over cliche: "All-American."

Who is, anyhow? Let's not even seriously conjure that up (OK, what the hell, Archie -- cheerleader daughter, successful dad, stay-at-home scrapbooking mom, football player son who joins the Rangers -- see, it does not work).

I have respect and affection for Will Higgins and John Tuohy, who authored the story, with the subhead, "Strange tale of stalking, alleged fake crime scene," but come on, guys, give me a break. Editors, where were you? And why this need to put an all-American gloss on a story that is so far from all-American, it might as well have been about the Taliban playing piano and engaging in same-sex obsession?

This is the kind of silliness and stretching of facts that makes newspapers irrelevant and not credible.  Everyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows that you never put the most interesting stuff in the story, because editors will kill it out. But this effort at normalizing a strange family is just plain ridiculous.

I'm not going to entirely blame the writers, for reasons already stated. And the "went rogue" line is a gem.

But an editor needed to step to the plate on this lead.







Whitebeard [unverified] said:

You're right about this article, Ruth.

But I'm wondering if it was the writer's fault or a copy editor's fault.

I had copy editors at The Star do bizarre things to my articles back in the 1990s. Some of them literally butchered my work.

This article has the "smell" of airhead copy editor work to me, but I could be wrong. The reporters who did the story are experienced and respected, so that's why I wonder about the copy editing.

2011-05-27 12:24:40

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I swear, there's something in the water in Shelbyville. More odd things happen there, per capita, than anywhere in America. Or at least Indiana.

2011-05-27 17:58:10

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