Bus Plunge Journalism

When I was an innocent young man, given to affectations of being cynically “grizzled” and smoking up a storm in a newsroom in Massachusetts, listening to the police scanner, drinking vending machine coffee out of paper cups with poker hands printed on them, hanging out with derelicts who did funny things like de-ice their frozen windshields with Lawry’s Garlic Salt (thus making their car smell like a hellish pizza for life), I began to collect a scrapbook of bus plunge items.

What, you may ask, is a bus plunge?

Look at a newspaper — the paper kind — and you will find, on any given day, a little inch of text about a bus “plunging” off a cliff and killing a couple hundred people. This is a horrible thing, but apparently occurs often enough to persuade me to never, ever take a bus ride in the Andes. The headline always — repeat always — uses the verb “Plunge.”

Reading the word makes my stomach flip like the descent on a roller coaster. Buses always plunge. They don’t crash. They don’t fly. They don’t plummet. They plunge.

And when they plunge a lot of people die, anonymously, notes in less than 50 words drummed up by a hassled copy desk denizen who needs to plug a chunk of white space on page 5.

In the same genre of bus plunges are ferry capsizes — usually occurring in the Phillipines — and I soon expanded my scrapbook to include those horrors of manmade disaster.

This was not a happy project and the notebook, amazingly, quickly filled up as there seems to be a bus plunge or ferry capsize every single day of the year. Someone stole it.

Point of this macabre digression? If newspapers are toast, and there is no physical layout problem with online news, is the bus plunge doomed? Is this a Zen question?

Google reveals the genre is still alive and well, but not as finely crafted into the telegraphic style of days ago. Now there are actually some details:

And of course, you knew it was coming, there is a bus plunge portal. I am in awe.


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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