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Chunks in Action: Armed Goat

Any story can be broken into chunks. Here’s a quirky one from Reuters’ Lagos bureau:

LAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

“The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat,” Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

“We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,” he said.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

Notice how the story actually works a lot better because the author has not tried to be funny. What is funny are the facts.

CHUNK 1: A straight lead

LAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

CHUNK 2: Context and detail. While the lead gives us enough information, it teases the reader into wanting more information. So Chunk 2 has to provide it:

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

CHUNK 3: The quote. In this case we haven’t actually established the source for this. Part of the humour of the piece comes from the fact that the source is actually the police itself. That we’ve got it in a quote makes it doubly powerful and colourful, and so it’s worth including at length:

“The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat,” Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

“We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat,” he said.

CHUNK 4: The flesh. In this case, we need to pull back the focus and point out that this case is by no means an isolated one. We also need to anticipate another likely question from readers: Where is the goat now? Is it still alive? Is it being looked after?

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

Compare with this from AP:

Black Magic? Newspaper Claims Suspect Turned Into a Goat

LAGOS, Nigeria — One of Nigeria’s biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.

The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.

Police in the state couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Belief in black magic is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in far-flung rural areas.

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  1. […] Chunks in Action: Armed Goat […]

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