November 15, 2006

The Bus Plunge

At some point during this past summer, I began to read (or at least look at) Slate every day. The online magazine has a variety of features I find fascinating, including political, judicial, and pop culture commentary.

One of my favorite features, however, is the Press Box column written by Jack Shafer. It seems he's covered almost everything related to the news industry at one point or another. Recently, he has written about national news "sweetening" Nancy Pelosi in hopes of gaining greater access to her and the Los Angeles Times potential purchase.

Occasionally, he produces a true gem of a column. Recently, he wrote about the decline of the "bus plunge story." To summarize the column, a "bus plunge story" is a paragraph long story with a short headline that informs the reader of a bus plunging off of a cliff or mountain and killing passengers. These stories were frequently used by The New York Times in order to fill space on some pages.

Journalists, being the cynical and jaded lot that they are, began to find the frequency of bus plunge stories most amusing. In fact, at the Times, "Bus plunges had become an inside joke, with editors scouting the wires for new ones."

My favorite part of the column, though, is the following two sentences: "Of course, it's callous to make light of anybody's tragic death. But by the gallows-humor standards of journalism, competing to publish bus-plunge shorts was fairly benign."

It's funny because it's true.

Posted by Randy at November 15, 2006 06:00 PM | TrackBack