Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Real Reporting

This is real reporting:

Clinton Has Plane Trouble, Hitches Ride Home

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Even when you have your own plane, sometimes you get stuck in the airport.

That's what happened to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday, when mechanical trouble grounded her and her traveling party in Saudi Arabia.

Fortunately, if you are the top U.S. diplomat, you can hitch a pretty sweet ride. Gen. David Petraeus happened to be in the neighborhood, and he's stopping to pick her up. Petraeus was in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Clinton was a couple hours away in Jeddah.

Clinton told reporters that the government jet she uses has developed a fuel valve problem and could not be repaired quickly. She is leaving most of her traveling party behind.

Metaphors and metonyms:

"airport": Clinton was surely not sitting in an Eames Tandem seat, stuck listening to announcements as other flights boarded;

"sweet ride": airplane ≠ automobile;

"neighborhood": Saudi Arabia consolidated, minimized and thereby controlled by suburban logic;

"party": these political adventures are not all fun and games.

I'm not sure how this style of writing qualifies as 'news'. I think that the subject of air travel has created—gradually, almost imperceptibly—a new genre of reportage. It is a kind of writing that gets caught on lines of flight, like an eye that catches a spot in the sky and follows it, until it becomes a delta shaped airplane...or until it vanishes on the horizon. Such writing can be incredibly flighty, trying to track, as it were, moving targets. And when these targets themselves are targeting from above, it makes the task of writing all the more difficult.