It took me a while to figure out what seems to have been going on. [wp]
Died or was killed? What?
Fairfax man killed in crash at library
A man was fatally injured over the weekend in a car crash in Fairfax County, the count police said.
They said John Jasper, 72, of Fairfax Station was killed when his vehicle struck a parked vehicle at the Burke Centre Library on Fred’s Oak Road. Police said he was dropping mail at a sidewalk postal box about 1:45 p.m. when his car accelerated across the parking lot and struck the parked vehicle.
Jasper died at a hospital, police said. They said he apparently suffered a medical emergency.
Presumably he suffered a medical emergency, which is why he wound up that the hospital? And it was a pretty serious emergency because he died.
It sounds like – reading between the lines – that the guy experienced a heart attack (or something like that) and crashed his car and died. But the way it’s all put together makes it sound like he had a fatal accident with a parked car and that’s what killed him.
Newspaper articles oughtn’t be the kind of thing you need to read between the lines about.
You don’t need AI for this type of confusion. I remember a cutline (that’s the explanatory line under a photo in a newpaper) that said, “Dead and bewildered sheep stand beside the road.” That sure bewildered the hell out of me, can’t really blame the sheep for not grokking what was going on.
Not to mention the story about the “grizzly” accident that occurred in Utah. And here I thought they were gone from that part of the country.
But who was driving his vehicle, and why were they across the parking lot? And who put that sidewalk postal box in a hospital?
This is either the most bizarre series of events, or the “journalists” at WaPo are too used to publishing government press releases (and/or simply plagiarizing) without revision that they’ve completely forgotten how to write.
Ieva Skrebele says
There definitely are some bad journalists who are simply bad at writing, but I suspect that the problem here is much more complicated than this.
One of the many jobs I have done over the years was writing articles for an online magazine. They paid me a fixed amount of money (about $50) for each article I submitted. I had some basic quality guidelines to follow, my articles also had to have between 6500 and 10 000 characters. But other than that, if I wanted to earn a good living by writing, then I was incentivized to prioritize quantity over quality. I can type quickly enough. If I don’t research my topic, if I skip contemplating my language choices or sentence constructions, then I can churn out more text in the same amount of time. I could write a decent 6500 characters long article very quickly and pocket my salary. Alternatively, I could spend several days researching and writing an excellent 10 000 characters long article. If I did the latter, I wouldn’t earn enough money for a living.
For this reason I’m very reluctant to blame journalists. If their bosses force them to produce lots of text quickly, they have no other choice but to write crap. Quality is always time consuming and expensive.
This article you quoted is ambiguously worded and makes an extreme example of poor writing. But poor quality articles are pervasive among all sources of news. It’s rare to find well researched and informative articles that explain some issue in depth. Instead there is crap—short articles written for the dumbest reader with the shortest attention span. I’m not sure whom to blame for this. People who are in charge of newspapers and make decisions about what content gets published? Or maybe the readers themselves? In theory, supply ought to follow demand. If a website can earn more money and get more advertisement clicks by publishing yet another article titled “Sexy Photos of Ten Hottest Hollywood Celebrities” or “Ten Easy Ways how You Can Improve Your Sex Life,” then authors who want to write good quality texts simply cannot outcompete those who produce crap.
And this isn’t a problem only for journalists. Bloggers face the same dilemma. Google promotes websites that publish content on a daily basis. For the lone blogger it is inherently impossible to write a long and well researched article in just one day. For most authors it’s near impossible to churn out good content on a daily basis. One needs time to do the research, time to think about what and how they are going to write. Yet bloggers who prefer quality over quantity get punished by search engines. Personally, I would definitely prefer to read an author who publishes one excellent article per week than somebody who publishes mediocre articles on a daily basis. But that’s not what modern society expects. Readers are assumed to want daily content, have a short attention span, and be inherently unable to finish reading any text that is longer than just a few hundred words.
A possible sequence of garbling might be, that Fox5 copied from the police report, and the WP copied from Fox.
Fairfax County Police Department News:
John Morales says
Heh. That’s more egregious than normal, but not atypical IMO — though I admit I’m more literal-minded than most.
No, the car had an accident. He was dropping mail off at a sidewalk box. And the fatality was due to a medical emergency.
* A man was fatally injured over the weekend in a car crash in Fairfax County, the count police said.
– A rather slow and lingering death, by any count, even that of the count police.
* They said John Jasper, 72, of Fairfax Station was killed when his vehicle struck a parked vehicle at the Burke Centre Library on Fred’s Oak Road. Police said he was dropping mail at a sidewalk postal box about 1:45 p.m. when his car accelerated across the parking lot and struck the parked vehicle.
– He was dropping mail at a sidewalk postal box when his when his car accelerated across the parking lot and struck a parked vehicle. It happens.
* Jasper died at a hospital, police said. They said he apparently suffered a medical emergency.
– Ah, the good old count police! He was killed when his accelerating car struck a parked vehicle, then died at the hospital due to an apparent medical emergency.
My mother was once driving and hit by a parked car. Yes, I said that correctly.
The only confusion I see is whether he died at the scene as a result of the accident, or in the hospital as a result of his medical emergency. The vagueness mostly seems to be due to the (count) police not yet knowing if his medical emergency precipitated the accident or vice versa.
From the comments, I’m thinking that maybe some folks are imagining that the article implied he was out of his vehicle dropping off mail when the vehicle accelerated? Sidewalk mail boxes are often accessible from both the sidewalk and the street for drive-up access, so he was certainly in the vehicle. His foot could have slipped and hit the accelerator while he was reaching out the window, then he crashed and had a heart attack; or he could’ve had a stroke at the mailbox and then crashed after his foot slid onto the gas pedal. It’s probably impossible to know which unless a witness to his behavior can shed some light.
The other reason for the vagueness is the unfortunate use of “was killed” and “died” as virtual synonyms. Regardless, Mr. Jasper is still deceased.
I’m confused, though – do the count police monitor the number of things you have / should have, or do they monitor a specific class of nobility?