Sometimes media get it wrong. But sometimes we’re working from information that gets it even wronger! (I know!)
My two favourite media releases of 2015 came from OPP detachments. Every regional OPP headquarters has its own media relations person. Some are better than others. Dave Rektor in the West Region is wonderful and talks like a regular human being. Others, well, they’re either not as experienced or they just don’t know how to keep it real.
My favourite example came from Grey County OPP at the end of September. The way it was worded filled me with such glee that I saved a copy so I could refer back to it if I needed a grin. The release concerned animals on the roadways.This is a direct quote, with locations omitted for brevity:
“Early this morning Grey County OPP investigated a motor vehicle collision involving wild turkeys and another collision which involved a cattle beast. The cattle beast suffered injuries requiring it to be dispatched by police.”
What she meant was, a car hit a cow and the cow had to be put down. This is indicative of the kind of source material we get every single day. And when it comes from government, look out. They bury pertinent details in so much legal-speak and formal language that it makes you want to scream. When you’ve finally digested it, you realize it could have all been said in three sentences instead of two pages.
I used the cattle beast example for my newswriting students at Fanshawe College, as the difference between using common language and completely missing the mark. And how over-thinking what you’re writing can make it unintentionally funny.
My second favourite media release also came from an OPP detachment and it, too, involved creatures other than humans. This gem arrived from Middlesex County OPP:
“A quantity of coy fish was stolen from an outdoor pond.”
How did they know the fish were coy? I don’t recall any personality traits being given to the cattle beast! Of course, she meant koi fish, a Japanese fish that’s not necessarily coy at all.
So congrats to the OPP for the two-fer media releases. Watch out for cattle beasts and coy fish and may the only turkeys you encounter be on your dinner table.