Editor’s note: Former Glean writer Max Sparber is filling in for Brian Lambert for a few days.
Over at the Pioneer Press website, they feature a story on the front page identified as an “editor’s pick.” Presumably, this is a story they consider significant enough or interesting enough to highlight for those who may have missed it.
With all due respect to the PiPress editorial staff, their efforts are well-intentioned, but this is not the sort of thing a novice should undertake. Leave it to professional news encapsulators with years of experience, such as yours truly. I mean, yes, it is nice that work crews along the St. Paul corridor got 1,000 hot dogs courtesy of the owner of Transformation Beauty Salon, a story by Frederick Melo featured today.
But this story lacks a natural oomph, or what we in the encapsulation game call “razzmatazz.” It’s a good deed by a local business owner, and a savvy PR move, whether it was intended to be such or not.
But they have a story — also by Melo — with relentless consonance and assonance in the headline — these being the tricky kid brother of alliteration, which the title also plays with. Rather than repeat the sound of a first syllable, these puckishly play with vowel and consonant sounds. The title is rather dazzling: “St. Paul Hamm’s site: Half hums, other half hampers.”
It may not be the absolute masterpiece of newspaper headline writing (that would be a title of a story about British politician Michael Foot leading a nuclear disarmament committee that was titled “Foot heads arms body.”) But it’s still pretty good, and probably written by an editor, and it positively sings. That’s what you highlight.
KSTP has a story similar to the road repair story, but it has more heat on it: According to Kate Renner, Iraq war veteran Sgt. Brian Neill is having his home remodeled. But that’s just the start of the story. It turns out Habitat for Humanity is doing repairs and remodels like this, for veterans, for free. According to the AP, Americans are too war-weary to much care about the troops (specifically, we seem numbed to combat deaths). A good story can go a long way toward redressing that numbness — we Americans pretty much universally agree we sure care for our troops, and it is genuinely heartening to see somebody doing just that.
Editors do know how to pick out Wisconsin stories, however. We don’t generally pay too much attention to the day-to-day news there, so something has to be really outre to get republished locally, and, as a result, our neighbor to the east comes off as seeming populated by weirdos and idiots. Take the Strib story Monday about a Wisconsin bank robber who chose an unusual disguise in allegedly committing her crime: sunglasses and baseball cap, which is all well and good, and a bright yellow highway safety vest, which is neither well nor good.
Of course, City Pages knows how to highlight a story — arguably they go overboard, into the territory known as “clickbait,” where they deliberately seek out stories based on its viral potential rather than newsworthiness. But, then, when you have a story with a title like “Inspired by City Pages’ horoscope, couple bakes ‘Unicorn Poop’ cookies,” people are going to click, and that’s that.
Minnesota Public Radio doesn’t go for razzle-dazzle, but, then, they’ve always been the serious side of things, even when they are trying to be funny (an example: “Wits,” which approaches comedy with the deliberation of a high school student working on a science fair project). And so we turn to them, not for scintillating headlines, but instead for things we should know. Who is going to tell us, in unadorned language, that meth labs are back in south central Minnesota? Well, the AP, but MPR is the one reprinting the story with that spare title.
And who tells us that homelessness is up in Fargo-Moorhead? Bob Collins does, that’s who, and has there ever been a reporter for whom news was a more serious business? I feel sure Collins glances at the Glean, with our relentless jokiness and unfair potshots at bicyclists, and scowls. And he’s right to.