Paining By Numbers

The title of this week’s Todcast and accompanying blog was, in a way, lifted from the headlines of last week’s Dispatch. I have an odd relationship with the Dispatch, as I used to work for a competing newspaper and, along with then-editor Thomas Melville, participated in a one way feud with the Dispatch publisher Steve Green. Steve did not participate, not because he was above it (although I’m certain he was), but because he unlikely was aware of the feud.

Still, in the earliest versions of what would become the Todcast and in our offices and especially our minds, weekly we eviscerated what, objectively, is the most tedious 75 pages of ink committed to local news on the planet.

I claim to be able to tell the difference between decaffeinated and regular coffee because decaf tastes too much as if it’s trying to pass as coffee; as if aliens were guessing what coffee tastes like from a detailed description of it. The Dispatch is to weekly news what decaffeinated coffee is to regular coffee. So overly spot-on it is oddly disturbing. Also, it is far and away the most successful and most respected of the six area weekly newspapers. 

Go figure.

My theory has always been that its popularity has something to do with its Ocean City-ness. The Dispatch is like Fisher’s Popcorn or Thrasher’s Fries—iconic unto itself, contextually superior and nostalgically significant.

This is a very long way of saying I don’t look at the Dispatch for any reason but to feel snarky and superior in the way fat guys with little beards tend to.

So when I saw the headline: “With Council Nod, OCPD Boosts Taser Arsenal Up To 37%” I made no effort to understand it. Did one in three cops now have tasers? Did the town purchase a number of tasers such that one in three weapons in its “Arsenal” was a taser?

Traditional wisdom calls for stories to have headlines so descriptive that if people don’t read the story it’s no big deal. Traditional as they are, the Dispatch made certain the headline made you turn to page 10 to discover the mystery of the 37 percent.

One of the legitimate difficulties with being the most popular paper in the region is, believe it or not, space. They sell too many advertisements proportionate to the news, so they encourage their reporters to write longwindedly. While other newspapers are stingy with the amount of space devoted to news, the Dispatch is expansive.

So much so they included the following explanatory quote:

“I can give you another statistic that wasn’t included in the report, in which officers arrived at a scene of an incident in which the Taser was available to our officers and in the cases where the ECD was on the scene and utilized 14 percent of either an officer or suspect sustained an injury as opposed to the 47 percent,” Guiton responded. “So there was a great reduction when the ECD was available and deployed, and in all of those cases the injuries were very minor in nature … there were no injuries that required a hospitalization stay or a follow-up.”

And here is my second favorite sentence, mostly because of the use of the word “furthered” to mean, “continued speaking:”

Guiton furthered department records reflect that since the implementation of the ECD program, police officers have encountered 53 incidents involving a suspect actively resisting during an arrest where officers did not have an ECD available to them and injuries were sustained by an officer, a suspect, or an officer and a suspect during 25 of those encounters, representing about 47 percent of incidents.

It just makes me so happy in the most terrible way.

So the story was loaded with numbers statistics and percentages and the point was (I think) that more than one in three cops now has a taser. Just in time for June Bugs to hit the boards. How wonderful.

Also in the news this week, planet earth is on the verge of world peace. We know this because grown men, presumably after curing cancer and ending world hunger, have begun aggressively campaigning against circumcision.

This, apparently, is a national phenomenon, dominated by men who are absolutely out of things to bitch about. To be fair, I agree that circumcision is a needless practice and am firmly against genital mutilation in all its forms. My beef is this more about the wasted time and energy than the stupidity of the “cause.”

There are just too many other things worth protesting, if you must protest. But when there are soup kitchens that need help serving lunch, painting your balls red and whining about ancient rituals during your lunch hour seems impossibly silly.

There’s plenty more on this week’s Todcast, including the State of the Beer with Bryan Brushmiller. Take a listen below or subscribe here.