A headline in the Trib's print edition today: "Chief says he was going to buy pants."---
It's an excellent headline for many reasons. (I only wish the story itself -- about the unfortunate Spanish Fork police chief who was accused of shoplifting even though he made no attempt to leave the store with unpaid merchandise -- had never gained such reputation-damaging media traction * in the first place.)
But at first glimpse, it takes a moment to recall the details of the Spanish Fork drama. And in that moment, the headline -- standing on its own as a random sentence -- captures the imagination. "Chief says he was going to buy pants." What gems could the following news item possibly contain?
"We've been after him and after him to buy some damn pants, already," said Alan Assistant, who works in close proximity to Charles Chief on a daily basis.
"He said he was going to buy some," added Rita Receptionist. "But then he came back early from his lunch break, still wearing those same old tighty-whities. I wonder what happened?"
Given the limited space on a news page, print headlines must be brief. They are sometimes enigmatic, designed to tease the reader further into the story. In this case, the headline offers a delightful ambiguity: Is it "Chief says he was going to buy pants" or "Chief says he was going to buy pants"?
It is the latter case, of course -- as the online headline makes clear: "Spanish Fork police chief says he was going to buy pants, not steal them."
All the details are there; the mystery is gone.
Online headlines are different from print ones: Without the space restrictions of print news, they can be pretty much as long as the editor wants them to be. And, in order to accommodate search engines, it's a good idea to provide as much information as possible.
Still, they're not nearly as much fun, are they?
* From what I gather, Chief Dee Rosenbaum's only "crime" was carrying shopping bags into a store. Some hypervigilant employee notified security, who called the police. Since the accused was a high-profile individual, this was enough to prompt a miniature media feeding frenzy.
Speaking of shopping bags, aren't we supposed to be recycling our own shopping bags in order to conserve resources? I can only admire the organizational skills of folks who actually remember to do that. And for that matter, if the store doesn't even offer baskets or carts for its customers, who can blame them?
The charges will obviously have to be dropped, but in the meantime, the man has had his name dragged through the mud -- and we can only hope proclamations of Rosenbaum's innocence will ring as loud as the silly accusations.
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