Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reader Baffled in Confusing Headline Scandal

George Takei is an actor, an activist, and for many people on facebook, a daily source of amusement. He posts amusing photos several times per day, having to do with Star Trek, gay marriage, or anything in the world one could possibly poke fun at.

Here are some of my favorites:

Today I was catching up on the stuff in my news feed when I saw this from George Takei:

I was amused, of course. “17 Remain Dead,” what else could they possibly be doing? That’d be a great headline: “17 Rise Again to Do Laundry After Being Killed...” etc. But then I looked a little closer and decided that I have no idea what this article could possibly be about.

“17 Remain Dead in Morgue Shooting Spree.” At first I thought that the 17 were Remaining Dead in the Morgue, but then I stared at it for a while and decided that the only possible thing that could have happened is that they died as a result of a Shooting Spree that took place in the Morgue.

I was determined to read the article to find out what had happened, so I rushed to the source of all information in the world: google. The dispenser of all knowledge informed me that I could find out more about this article in the pages of a book called Cruel and Unusual Idiots: Chronicles of Meanness and Stupidity, by Leland Gregory. I followed the trail. It led me to a quote of the headline in the middle of two other stories that had nothing to do with it. The only further clues it gave were the name of the paper (which you can already clearly see in the picture), and even better: the date it was published.

Go, go, gadget internet. Google ushered me to the website of The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. I was excited. Soon I would find out the mystery of the non-zombified victims of the Morgue Shooting Spree. The helpful search function informed me (when I searched “Sept 4 2001”) that I could find articles dating back to 1990. Perfect.

I utilized said search function. Rigorously. I even used the advanced search and put the specific dates in that I was looking for, made sure it knew that I wanted to find a headline, and tried searching different phrases from the title. I didn’t even mind that it was going to charge me $2.95 to read the article once I found it.

I found nothing. “0 Results,” it reported, and “No Articles Were Found.” It was driving me crazy. What could have happened? Why were they so insistent on reporting that the victims Remained Dead? Was there black magic involved? Is that why the Shooting Spree occurred in the Morgue itself?

The only conclusion I can come to, then, is that the paper has tried to engineer a coverup. Perhaps the 17 did not Remain Dead. Perhaps the 17 were the reason for the Shooting Spree: that is, because they did not Remain Dead, there had to be a Shooting Spree, or worse yet, a second Shooting Spree.

Or perhaps they are embarrassed that they allowed a copy editor working on too little sleep to do the headlines that day and that the headline itself passed under the nose of the apparently non-watchful editor. Even if we take out the ridiculous “Remain,” the headline is still confusing: “17 Dead in Morgue Shooting Spree.”

The moral of the story is this: commas are important, kids. Also: mistakes made in the public eye will be remembered (and made fun of) forever. Finally: If the zombie apocalypse does occur, let's hope it's not in North Carolina because the world will be instantly doomed; not only will they report it as "Cemetery Residents Seek Better Accommodation," but they will then remove the article from their website due to the embarrassment caused by the ridiculous headline.


  1. Here's the story behind that headline: