Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Columbia killing: And that she's a mother is relevant why?

So this is a story from my morning paper today:
Columbia police are asking for the public’s help in identifying three suspects who killed a baker and mother of four.

Kelly L. Hunnewell, 33, of Pineneedle Drive, was found dead Monday morning at the bakery kitchen where she worked at 93 Tommy Circle.

The woman died from complications from gunshot wounds to the upper body, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said.

From the outside, no one would know that a bakery is inside the white, cinder-block building just off Beltline Boulevard. There are no signs anywhere on the building, only two windowless doors and a larger bay door. The building is surrounded by fences, and the backyard is full of overgrown weeds.

Police found Hunnewell’s body after receiving a call from someone near the bakery who heard a woman screaming and gunshots, according to Columbia Police spokesman Jim Crawford.

Later, investigators discovered surveillance footage that showed three armed men entering the shop through a propped-open door. Seconds later, the men are seen leaving the scene hurriedly.

Officers are still trying to determine a motive, Crawford said.

“It’s truly a whodunnit at this point,” Crawford said Tuesday. “We’re working on some remote leads right now, but nothing concrete.”

Tommy Circle is off Beltline Boulevard, near an ale house, a bail bond company and a hair salon. The bakery is the last building before Tommy Circle turns into a residential area.

There has been no recent crime around the bakery, Crawford said.

And I'm still left wondering why her being a "mother of four" is relevant, especially in the lede when it is not referenced or backed up elsewhere in the story.

We really do have to stop doing these knee-jerk, sexist ledes. That's not to say there should be a blanket ban on such things. There actually can be justification for mentioning these things in context -- and the local TVs got it, instead of dwelling on the building and surrounding scenery:
Family members say Hunnewell had four children. They say she was working early morning hours at the bakery so she could spend time with her kids. 

Bingo - all it takes is a little reporting! (And consider* a hyphen after "early" while we're at it.)

The State's online story has this lede: A search for three suspects in the killing of a baker entered its second day Tuesday. I can't tell if someone had the good sense to change it online or the poor sense to change it for the paper. (In one of the many continuing examples that newsrooms still don't totally get online, while the site date-stamps its entries, it does not time-stamp them.) And that story still has a headline "No suspects in killing of baker, mother of 5" (so maybe there's a numeracy problem too?).

*I've added "consider." Ah, nothing like throwing a hyphen into a roomful of journalists to watch the fun begin. My old friend Royal Calkins, over on Facebook where this post also appeared, declares it non-negotiable -- no hyphen with -ly words, be they adjectives or adverbs. Would that it were so clear-cut. As an example, the AP, following many newsrooms' recent aversion to hyphens, comes down on the side of not using it, but with blowback from commenters. So does National Geographic and Cambridge. On the other hand, "Working With Words," a standard guide in journalism classes and newsrooms, says this: "Use a hyphen in a compound modifier after any word ending in ly other than an adverb, such as the adjectives friendly, likely, seemly, timely and ugly or the noun family." Bill Walsh, in "Lapsing Into a Comma," generally follows the same path, and you can find style guides on either side of the issue. And there is vigorous debate among copy editors I respect (the latter is Gramarphobia, by Patricia O'Connor, and note the use of the hyphen in the text on another subject). I've written before about the unloved hyphen and the journalistic move away from it (though the Wall Street Journal still cherishes the little buggers). So my best advice is to make your own decision or follow your favorite style guide. But, please, do not call it non-negotiable as Royal has. Very little in language is when it comes to usage and style (this is not a grammar issue) and punctuation. (And if it were, there wouldn't be so much dang debate on the Oxford comma - journalists would have to use it because it is the predominant American style. Not endorsing it, just sayin' ...)

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