Friday, September 12, 2003

A Detroit News columnist , Laura Berman, looks back at Sept. 11 by delivering a back-handed compliment to a headline writer.

It was just after 10 a.m. The towers had collapsed, and Laura's editor gave her 45 minutes to write a special-edition column.
The magnitude of the events that particular September day were overwhelming and confusing and oddly numbing -- not easy material for a journalist trying to compose a slice of history's first draft in less than an hour.
A copy editor, likely just as rushed, crafted this headline: One tragic day forever shatters our safe and secure world. The columnist disagreed.
It was an awful headline, too knowing and predictive, and it leaped to a conclusion that was nowhere to be found in the column it was ostensibly describing.
Jumping to conclusions? Now that's a bad headline tactic. Those of us who write headlines know all to well how it probably happened, but it's still no excuse. A bad head is a bad head.

But Laura goes on.
The column I wrote on Sept. 11 avoided reaching for wholesale conclusions. The headline writer decided to put in words what I didn't yet want to believe. On a traumatic day filled with uncertainty, we couldn't know in our heads that a new century, and a new order, had begun.

But looking back at that headline, I think we knew it in our hearts.
I can't figure out if she is saying the headline was OK after all or if now, two years later, she has decided she can forgive and forget because it has come true.

Either way, I'll take issue: A head that was over-reaching two years ago isn't made good by being true today.

One tragic day forever shatters our safe and secure world?

Forever is a long time.


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