Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The sweat-lodge story -- twice!

Today's paper offers an interesting perspective on the editing process by carrying two different edits of the same AP story.

I suppose it's remotely possible that this was a newsroom screwup, wherein two different Courier editors pulled different versions of the same story and shoveled them into the paper without checking. But that would be just too amazingly dumb to believe.

So readers have the opportunity to view some of the inner workings of how a story can drift and change with the editing process. For example, in one, "Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said Tuesday that authorities have not yet spoken with Ray," while in the other, "Authorities said Ray has refused to speak with authorities." Same fact, different slants. Collect 'em all!

Why are there multiple versions? Different papers want different slants on the news. Here we see the focus-on-the-family version vs the focus-on-the-perp version. If he wanted both perspectives, a good editor would have merged the stories rather than repeat so much verbatim. Usually, though, editors choose the version that resonates with their own prejudices, which is what they think their readers really prefer.

OK, it was a colossal screwup, no matter how it came about. No getting around it.

Something else to consider: have you noticed how little we read about Sedona or the Verde Valley in the Courier? Might there be a prejudice in play in the editorial office that puts more value on this particular story?

Finally, this event took place adjacent to Senator McCain's place, nearer Cottonwood than Sedona. But the stories are all datelined Sedona, purely because of the 'new-age' event involved imho, and McCain's name has been kept out of it despite its human-interest value.

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