Fast News

MANILA-Technology allows us to get news like fast food: instantly hot but immediately soggy.

In the rush to feed an information-gobbling Internet public, we journalists sometimes sacrifice the crispiness of the language.

Take as example a piece from the Abs-Cbn News website about a bus that hit three vehicles and a house []. The news said 15 people were hurt.

The head as well as the first three paragraphs captured basically what happened. But the fourth graf left me stumped: “Investigators said the bus finally stopped when it hit a residential house, located along the road, which almost fell into a deep ravine.”

If, like me, you guessed it was the bus that “almost fell into a deep ravine,” then you’re smarter than me. I guessed it was the house. Maybe the house was made of wood or stood on stilts, that's why it "almost fell into a deep ravine."

That last phrase also left wondering: is there a “shallow ravine” or a “deep arroyo”?

Anyway, I gathered the report was referring to the house almost fell into the "deep ravine," because the news said the bus "finally stopped."

The sentence would have been clearer if the report was written this way: "Investigators said the bus stopped after hitting a house along the road, nearly pushing the wooden structure into a ravine." Too, it saved three words if the editor was really aiming for brevity.

Continuing with the news report, there was also an urge to place a comma to replace the word "and" somewhere in the sentence about rescuers.

Maybe the reporter or editor wanted to make sure every segment of those who helped was properly acknowledged. If so, then the sentence should have dropped the phrase “Rescuers from the…” and rushed ahead to acknowledge the good Samaritans: “Residents and local police and village officials brought the 15 Elavil bus passengers to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.”

We also saved six words in the process.

It would have been better if the reporter was able to get the name of the hospital or how “near” it is. Nonetheless, even if we put in “a block away,” the sentence would still be shorter by four words.

Also, even if we replace “minor injuries” with “cuts and bruises,” the sentence will have saved three words, as in “Residents, local police and village officials brought the 15 Elavil bus passengers to a hospital a block away for treatment of cuts and bruises.”

This sentence also stumped me: "Police said no one was hurt from the other vehicles involved in the road mishap as well as the people residing in the house."

An alternative may be: “Police said people in the house and in the other vehicles involved in the accident didn't appear hurt or injured. This’s 20 words as against the original’s 24.

The story ended with a sentence that recalled a road accident also involving buses but which was more fatal.

It could have been written as: “Three days ago, the Lucena bus lines and Bragais Lines collided along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Domoit in Lucena City, killing 9 and injuring 40." Through this rework, four words were cut.

These errors appear minor though because the story still gave a factual presentation of what happened from a reporter’s own account and reconstruction of the event at the shortest time given by the need for fast news.

The good thing about this new technology is that it allows the story to be reworked, with updates or follow up information included, and hopefully written better before appearing again on the Abs-Cbn News online portal.

But should haste make way for errors in sentence construction? Is the English language that unimportant a tool for communicating something unfortunate in a more elegant way?

I leave this to readers; I have to catch up with the next, faster news.

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