Thursday, May 8, 2014

Stamford Raffles, Save Our Stools, and some dubious headlines...

Raffles' statue, Raffles' status...

As I had noted, the spin doctors have been working hard on labels: pioneer generation, first-generation Singaporeans, and founding leaders of modern Singapore, etc. So I was more than a little surprised that ST used the label "founder of modern Singapore" to describe Sir Stamford Raffles. I wonder if there'll be more such references to Raffles as the SG50 campaign -- including the re-imagining of Singapore's history and memories of the past -- builds up.

Save Our Stools (SOS)!

I'm imagining this entirely fictitious exchange taking place in a newsroom...

Reporter, just back from an assignment: Hi, I'm back from the hospital interviews. I've got a shitty story.

Editor who's on duty, not looking away from his monitor screen: Who doesn't? Shit happens. Just write to 15cm max. No pictures.

R: But boss, it's not a crappy story. Well, OK, it is about crap; but it's about how the hospitals are taking "healthy" faeces from suitable donors and stuffing it -- I mean transplanting it -- into the guts of people whose own poo is so bad it makes them sick and even dangerously ill.

E: Hmm, Save Our Stools, huh? SOS -- and save a life.

R: Hey, that's a good one! May I use that in my intro?

E: Nope. People will be reading your story at breakfast. Think of it... they might be having nicely browned sausages, chocolate muffins, stuff like that. OK, I'm making it a lead, 30 to 40cm. Still no pictures. And, like I just said, no toilet humour.

R: I've got two great quotes! How about this one from the doctor: "You don't actually taste it, and you don't actually smell it." And this one from a contact: "Holy sh**t! But why not? I would want to live."

E: Hey, they're good! Use the "Holy sh**t" one as the kicker. Now go write me a solidly packed page lead.

And that's how (I imagined) shit happens. And it is a great story, really. Well done, Ms Linette Lai...

Actually, I would tweak the headline above:

Don't poo(h) poo(h) this
transplant treatment

More on dubious headlines
(for people who only read headlines and imagine they know the story already)...

Why? Didn't his Swiss hosts provide the meals? Aiyah, use quotation marks for 'takeaways'!

Does everyone know who Ben Tan is? A sensible headline rule is to not use a name in this way in a headline -- if there's some doubt that a fair number of ordinary readers won't easily recognise the newsmaker's name.

Even a name like Monica Lewinsky may not be on everyone's lips, so kudos to the headline writer for this one below:

For an opinion piece, where the readership is supposedly more well-informed, her name in the headline is perfectly fine...

For this one below, the error is a common one. Odd as it may seem to some people, the correct phrasing should be "10-man Home held to draw"...

The examples above are all from ST. Finally, I felt that this TODAY headline below has (given the way it is written) an unintended meaning:

That Toa Payoh block's rooftop was found to have: (a) graffiti; and (b) police! Have the police been up there as long as the graffiti?

Call it nitpicking on my part, but good headlines are unambiguous -- unless some pun or a play on words is intended.

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