Friday, May 1, 2009

Where Have All The Editors Gone?

There once was a time when if you wrote a headline like this for a wire service, a grizzled vet across the newsroom who edited your copy would explode in laughter or rage. If you were a greenhorn, it would be the latter rather than the former. Either way, the vet's coffee would be spilled all over the desk, ashtray knocked to the floor--such would be the umbrage taken at the headline and story description of this suspect.
The editor would stand and hitch up his pants over his pot belly and question the writer's manhood, intelligence and college pedigree in language that would peel paint. (At least mine did).
Now pictures may be deceiving, and John Floyd Thomas Jr. could be eight feet tall, but he doesn't look like he weighs 800 pounds. Either of those physical features would qualify Thomas as the "largest ever" serial killer.
Instead, he's suspected of being the most prolific killer in L.A.'s history, a fact that Thomas Watkins notes in his lede. So why does the headline quote robbery-homicide Capt. Denis Cremins bludgeoning of the language?
"If he turns out to be the guy, he probably would be the largest ever (serial killer) in the city of Los Angeles."
We may never know, just as we may never know why serial killers are "prolific," "indefatigable," hardworking," "dedicated," "diligent" or "tireless."


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