Community newspapers increasingly are looking for creative ways to present items in police logs, says Editor & Publisher. The magazine credits Kevin Hoover, editor of the Arcata Eye in Northern California’s Humboldt County, who is compiling a collection of his items for a book.
Under Hoover, a mundane noise complaint is turned into a limerick worthy of Dr. Seuss: “3:55 p.m.: A bongo’s percussory drone, Like Lucifer’s own metronome, Raged on for an hour, Extending its power, Across Patchouli Plazadome.” Another sample: “1:12 a.m.: Officials at an all-night… diner had some trouble persuading a topless man to put on a shirt, so the other customers could masticate their hash browns in peace without his brazen nipples obtruding on the scene.”
Editor & Publisher says other local papers have taken a tongue-in-cheek approach. Reported the weekly Stranger in Seattle: “Officer B. Hope reports that today he was told by a complainant that an unknown woman had driven all the way up from Arizona to reclaim her husband (whom we shall call ‘Burt’). The woman believes that she is on ‘a mission of God’ and that she is [Burt’s] true wife. The unknown Arizona woman contends that the complainant stole Burt from her, but now she wants her man back…”
From the Argus-Courier in Petaluma, Calif.: “7:45 a.m.: Maybe in the rush to get to work on time, this free spirit simply forgot his/her pants. Or perhaps s/he wished to experience an all-over breeze. Whatever the reason, police busted the soul for indecent exposure.”
Some editors are wary. Leah Pietrusiak, editor of citylink on Chicago’s Near West Side, says, “You can be humorous in a small town … but you have to be really careful to not downplay the seriousness. If [readers] don’t take what they are reading seriously and don’t take it as a warning to be careful … they won’t apply it to their own situation. Ultimately, you’re there to make people aware of crime.”
Says Northern California’s Hoover: “We never make light of anything that’s really bad. Obviously if there’s a serious robbery or accident, we’re not gonna make light of it.” He added that, “If you see some of these incidents going down, they’re soaked in humor. To approach them in a serious way is to arbitrarily cut out part of what happened.”