Monday, September 27, 2010

Have you heard? This bird is a symbol of peace! (And quite dead, too...)


Here's one from the "Let's choose the most tired, over-used dove hunting cliché ever in the lead paragraph to this story on dove hunting because we can't write for shit" files...

From this story in the New York Times... the headline reads (I kid you not) "A Winged Symbol, but With More Than One Meaning."

Elsewhere, the mourning dove is a symbol of peace. But here in western Missouri, the sight of those familiar speckled wings against the September sky means something altogether different: hunting season has arrived. On a blustery afternoon last week filled with the promise of rain, three friends squatted patiently in a field of wilted sunflowers, each resting a camouflaged knee on the muddy earth. Jon Rogers, who had skipped work even though he already had a freezer full of dove meat, cupped his hands together to imitate the familiar call: coo-Hoo, coo-coo-Coo.

In Iowa, that is officially the call of a songbird, and the mourning dove is protected. In Michigan the hunting of mourning doves was banned, reinstated for a single season, then banned again after a statewide referendum. But hunters in 41 other states — including Wisconsin, where the bird is the officially designated symbol of peace — have made the mourning dove the most popular game bird in the United States.

Somewhere, high up on their craggy, increasingly lonely and forgotten mount, the gods of originality are weeping...

And in the New York Times, no less. How on earth did that lead make it past a copy editor? Or any editor not blind to breathless and overwrought prose? And what did the reporter think? That no one else in the history of the newspaper industry has ever had the brilliant stroke of genius to mention the dove as a "symbol of peace" in a newspaper story about dove hunting? You think we haven't seen that one before, over and over and over again? Damn, you'd think the reporter was, like, the publisher's son or something...

Wait, hold on a second...the reporter, A.G. Sulzberger, IS the publisher's son, and presumably the man who will someday inherit control of the New York Times.

With that lineage I'm assuming Mr. Sulzberger didn't get his job on merit alone, so here's a bit of unsolicited journalism advice from a dove hunter and former small-town newspaper reporter of absolutely no fame or consequence whatsoever: the juxtaposition of two diametrically-opposed ideals, symbols or images as a literary device generally only works (and here's the important part, the one your journalism profs obviously didn't test you on) IF IT HASN'T ALREADY BEEN DONE, ENDLESSLY.

And trust me, Mr. Sulzberger (jr.), that whole "dove as a symbol of peace AND a target for hunters" thing? We've seen it before. A lot. And like most literary chestnuts, it gets a little stale and tends to lose whatever questionable power it may have had after about version five thousand. So maybe you should think about trying something else next time.

I dunno, it's just a thought from an obscure nobody who will never have a byline in the NY Times so take it for what it's worth...


  1. That was one of two hunting stories published in the NYT over the weekend that left me disappointed. The other was the piece on struggling to maintain the ranks of hunters. Both felt thin - I expect more when I read the NYT, but I didn't learn anything from reading these.

  2. And so we turn to other sources for our news, and newspapers continue to waddle toward extinction.

    If this is what we lose...BFD.