I was just reading this news article about a former political aide found dead in a Delaware landfill. The news is terrible, of course, but the quotes really bother me.
For one, “He was just not the sort of person who would wind up in a landfill” seems to imply that there are some people who you would expect to find dead in a landfill without anyone really caring. I think I know what he meant — that he was a nice guy that got along well with everyone — but it certainly didn’t come out that way. Even if it was a heroin-dealing rapist who crossed the Mafia that was found, I’m not sure anyone would really say, “I always expected that he’d end up in a landfill.”
The same guy later says, “He was a very humble kind of guy, actually…” Again, I know what he means: in spite of all the really impressive things he’s accomplished, he was very humble. But to me, the “actually” dangling on the end is akin to saying, “Believe it or not, he wasn’t a jerk!”
How about ditching both sentences, and just saying, “He was such a nice guy. This is such a great shock” or something to that effect?
Normally, I wouldn’t critique the quotes of a grieving relative of someone who died in a horrible manner. But see, I’m not critiquing the quotes of a grieving relative, or even a relative at all. What I’m really wondering is why the Associated Press chose to use the quotes of the lawyer representing him and his wife in a zoning dispute for the news article about his tragic death. He served during multiple Presidents’ administrations, was the first executive in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, had a lead role in building the Vietnam Vet’s Memorial, and the best person the Associated Press can find to give a quote is “an attorney who was representing Wheeler in a dispute over a couple’s plans to build a new home”? And when he said, “He was a very humble kind of guy, actually,” the reporter didn’t think of omitting the quote or finding a better one?