“N.S. taser victim ‘was running for his life'”

23 Nov ’07

Note the position of this opening quotation mark in a Globe headline over a story on Howard Hyde, the NS man who died recently after being tasered – an appalling tragedy by any measure. Move it one word to the right, and the meaning is that the Globe is reporting that Hyde was “running for his life” when tasered. Left where it is, you’re merely left with that impression (without the tricky part of writing a story that actually takes responsibility for it), unless you read down and realize that it’s a quote from a distraught family member, and not in fact the conclusion of a reporter. The context of family grief is vital to our understanding of the severity of the issue and the need for an inquiry, but the impression of a man running for his life away from the police is a toxic image that doesn’t accurately describe the issue (quite apart from the fact that the victim was severely mentally disordered and not taking necessary medication at the time). No wonder the police are hoping that the public temperature on Tasers will cool off before decisions are made.

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