Listen, I know how AP stories work. I know that when you read one on paper, it was often originally a much longer piece. I know that the author writes the article in order of importance so editors can cut it off at any point to fit column-inch requirements and not worry that readers will miss any crucial information.
I know all that background — but still, I’d never before seen the style so tightly integrated into the fabric of a news story. This post is going to include the relevant AP story in its entirety — albeit broken in two — and in order, so no need to visit the original link unless you want to double-check I’m not just making this all up (“But you don’t have to take my word for it!”):
“Spider-Man” comes to 8-year-old’s rescue in Thailand
BANGKOK — Spider-Man to the rescue!
Thai firefighter Somchai Yoosabai said on Wednesday he put on a Spider-Man costume to rescue a superhero-loving autistic boy who climbed onto a third-floor balcony and dangled his legs over the side because he was nervous on his first day of school.
Somchai was called in after the 8-year-old boy’s teachers and mother failed to coax him off the ledge on Monday, he said.
“He was nervous about the first day at school, and he was asking for his mother,” Somchai said. “He cried and refused to let any of us get close to him.”
Overhearing a conversation between the boy’s mother and his teachers about his love for comics and superheros, Somchai rushed back to the fire station to change into a Spider-Man costume used to liven up fire drills at schools before swinging into action.
“I told him Spider-Man is here to save you. No monster will hurt you now,” Somchai said. “Then I told him to walk slowly toward me. I was very nervous that he might have slipped if he got too excited and ran.”
The teary-eyed boy broke into a smile and started walking into his arms, Somchai said.
So far, the AP did a great job with the story. You read about the boy. You read about the heroic firefighter. You read about the high-flying rescue. Basically, it got the length exactly right. You could stop reading here having gotten exactly what you wanted when you clicked on the inviting headline. There’s very little more you want to know. You got the idea. This is like the perfect place to call it quits. End the story. Lay it to rest.
But that is not the AP way. It couldn’t help itself. It had to include one more paragraph of questionable necessity — you know, just in case some newspaper needed to fill one more column inch — because that’s how the agency operates. And for that one more paragraph, it couldn’t help itself from turning into a Spiderman-newspaper cliche:
So in case you don’t know who Spiderman is, or were wondering what a “Spider-man” what one might have to do with costumes and monsters and autistic children:
The fictional Spider-Man was created by comic-writer Stan Lee in the early 1960s. The character gained worldwide popularity in recent years thanks to the trilogy of Hollywood films starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
Thank you, AP!
Also, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone say hello.