SOME READERS DON’T FIND BUMBLING ‘CAPER’ SO FUNNY
Stories of criminal escapades gone awry can sometimes hold great appeal, especially when the perpetrators actions are unintentionally humorous — at least after the fact. An article on the front page of the Feb. 22 Kansas City Star told just such a tale, involving kidnappers foiled in part by a case of mistaken identity. “The whole cross-country caper is pretty funny,” said the story, likening it to something the Coen brothers might turn into a film. A New Jersey detective quoted in the piece called the plot “comical and scary.” However, multiple readers who contacted me about it didn’t find a single thing to laugh about. After all, the three suspects allegedly invaded the home of Vernon County, Mo. resident Charles Scammell and shot him in the hand, causing him to lose three fingers. They then pursued New Jersey resident Jeffrey Muller and kidnapped him, without realizing they had the wrong Muller. “I think the jokes and wisecracks about ‘capers’ and movies are terrible in a situation where an innocent man had three fingers blown off and another was kidnapped, bound with duct tape, and taken far from home,” wrote one emailers. “What a lack of empathy! Where is The Star’s grip on reality?” One caller called it “pathetic and insensitive to a criminal degree.” Another reader termed it “really offensive” because she found its tone “flippant.” “This belongs in a college or a high school newspaper, not something that serves a city,” she said. I spoke with reporter Don Bradley, who told me he had considered those sensitivities while writing it. I’m sure some readers thought the escapade was amusing (in fact, I did hear compliments about it as well), but I do get the critics’ point. As anyone who has been involved in a violent crime can attest, it is difficult to recognize anything funny about becoming a perpetrator’s victim. Nigeriens from Niger Multiple readers were confused by a headline in the Feb. 19 “Today’s Top 5” on the World Watch page. The headline “Armed soldiers storm Nigerian palace” referred to renegade forces kidnapping the president of Niger. “This is terribly inaccurate,” said a caller last Monday. “Surely The Kansas City Star should be aware that the word ‘Nigerian’ refers to the resi- dents of Nigeria, a separate nation from that of Niger, which is to Nigeria’s north.” He’s correct. The MerriamWebster Dictionary confirms that people from Niger should be referred to as Nigerien, with an -en instead of an -an. This isn’t something that rises to the level of a separate correction, but it’s worth noting. To reach Derek Donovan, send e-mail to email@example.com or call 816-234-4487 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Visit his blog at adastrum.kansascity.com.