Questionable Questions  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   April/May 2007

Questionable Questions   

By AJR Staff
     


It's always good when editors ask questions, right? Well, maybe not always. In a historic document dated circa 1959, James M. Perry–then a rewrite man at the late Philadelphia Bulletin and later a well-known political writer at the Wall Street Journal–collected some questions raised by sharp-eyed Bulletin editors:

• Rewrite man wrote story about a burglar breaking into a front bedroom and frightening a girl sleeping in the middle bedroom. Question: "How far back is the middle bedroom?"

• Rewrite man wrote story about Bucks Co. horse trampling girl to death. Question: "What was the sex of the horse?"

• An assistant city editor asked a rewrite man: "How far is New Hope?" Replied rewrite man: "From where?"

• A rewrite man wrote a story about a man who was found hanged in the basement of his home. Question: "Was he dead?"

• A rewrite man wrote a story about a PTC motorman being bitten by a dog. Because his hand was cut, he couldn't operate the trolley. Passengers were disembarked, got on the next trolley. Question: "Did they get transfers?"

• A rewrite man wrote an election fraud story about the attorney general sending "flying squads" into the city to police the polls. Question from desk man: "What do you mean by flying squads? Will they really be flying?"

• Story said in second paragraph that the robbers tied their victim up at 3 a.m. In last paragraph story said that the victim was untied and freed at 6 a.m. Question from desk man: "Was he tied up for three hours?"

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