Saturday, December 27, 2008

In Poor Taste

Southern California news consumers have been engrossed with the story of the Christmas Santa slayings, in which a recently divorced man in a Santa Claus suit took out his rage by killing nine members of his wife's family in an elaborate scheme for revenge that included strapping seventeen thousand dollars worth of cash to his body and making travel plans to Canada.

There is one very interesting revision of the historical record that has to do with the response of the killer's brother to the carnage and with conventions involving electronic communication. In the original version of the story that was posted online, the distraught brother's response is described as follows: "He said he and his wife would be sending e-mails later today to the victims' families, expressing their sympathy." By the time the story appeared in print form on doorsteps this morning, the copy had been revised to say this instead: "He and his wife planned to write letters of condolence to the victims' families." Obviously, "sending e-mails" was seen by readers of the Los Angeles Times and the would-be sympathy writers as too callous a response and a modification was made in the name of epistolary propriety.

As the LA Times continues to play out its endgame as a publishing venture at the close of a once proud history in which the paper justifiably garnered Pulitzer Prizes at one point, the rhetorical missteps continue to aggregate as they reduce their staffs to minimum wage mentality workers. Last night, as much of the newspaper's text was occupied with the horrific Santa suit killing spree, the user-generated content page for holiday photos was topped with an image titled "Scared of Santa."

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