When good news goes bad

editor-cat

No, I don’t mean the subject matter of the story, I mean the writing. This story by Joleen Chaney is the latest prime example.

It’s doomed from the hedline, really. “Sex offender caught in alley with prostitute.” If you’re going to go with “alley” in your hed, you should probably call it that in the story, not just a dead-end road.

And then there’s this:

“Green, black, gold – just about any variety – used evidence some people aren’t ashamed to leave behind. But prostitutes and johns aren’t the only ones you’ll find on this dead-end road near 14th Street and South Robinson in Oklahoma City, children often play in the thick trees and mountains of tires there. Perhaps a bigger concern – we’re told a registered sex offender may be cruising the area.”

Wait. What? Is she going for condoms/condom wrappers? And why wasn’t that the lede? That would have made for a better intro than one that told the entire story in one sentence. Your story is either factual or emotionally compelling: Pick one.

“O’Berry is a registered sex offender who used to live in an after prison program for certain kinds of offenders. The front gate of Hands-Up Ministries reads ‘Women and children not allowed beyond this point.’ Managers there told NewsChannel Four O’Berry was removed from the facility.

We talked with the Department of Corrections about O’Berry’s registration, and where he is currently living. We’re told nothing can be done in his case until charges are filed against him.”

Please, please learn how to hyphenate. Also, what kind of after-prison program? (A quick Google session revealed this Hands Up to be a shady organization that claims to rehabilitate sex offenders. Emphasis on “claims.”) Why was he removed?

What did the Dept. of Corrections say? Where is he living? What did he do? If they didn’t give you info, couldn’t you have looked at the National Sex Offender Registry’s Web site? You clearly have the ability to collect information, why not share it?

Also, let’s please take a look at the photo that ran with the story:

49175439-10082954

Yeah. That’s a blurry screenshot off a monitor. Terrible and lazy. At least pull his mugshot from the National Sex Offender Registry’s Web site.

I don’t know who fell asleep and let this pass with little to no editing, but whomever is responsible should go back to J-school. (And before you say it, yes, I could have done a better job.)

Unfortunately, for every terrible writer/editor/copy editor/designer employed out there, there are three more who are better qualified and more talented not working in journalism because the jobs simply don’t exist anymore. It’s sickening.

-B. Schmidt

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