SOME READ­ERS DON’T FIND BUM­BLING ‘CA­PER’ SO FUNNY

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - OPINION - DEREK DONO­VAN

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 read­er­rep@kc­star.com or call 816-234-4487 week­days be­tween 8:30 a.m. and noon. Visit his blog at adas­trum.kansascity.com.

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