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November 14, 2006 8:09 AM   Subscribe

The rise and fall of the bus plunge story. [via slate] Bus plunge from Wikipedia. Bus Plunge the web site.
posted by fixedgear (50 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am being dogged by journalese. Now I will have to crash out of Metafilter and spend time on my luxury yacht.
posted by randomination at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2006


Bus plunges are my favorite cliched news item.

And they're everywhere.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2006


Can't believe the great Seattle Aurora Bridge Bus Plunge of 1998 (due to deranged gun toting maniac) wasn't mentioned.

That was my only personal brush with bus plunge, my girlfriend lived right around the corner from there at the time.
posted by psmealey at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2006


What struck me when reading it was the simple nuts and bolts of it. My dad set type by hand, so I understand the process pretty well. The author seems to be claiming that the need to fill space with these short (and tragic) stories gave rise to this cliche, but it's going away or gone due to digital technology.
posted by fixedgear at 8:23 AM on November 14, 2006


Just for fun
posted by The Radish at 8:25 AM on November 14, 2006


Don't brake for animals tonight
Got to keep the passengers safe
No help can be found in this part of the world
Don't brake for animals tonight
Don't let the night slow you down
Got to get the passengers home
The road is empty, your lights are bright
Don't let the night slow you down
B-b-bus plunge (One more cup of coffee and I'll be alright)
The driver says bus plunge (pop a bennie, another bennie)
The driver says bus plunge, bus plunge
Stay to the right of the line
Don't get the passengers scared
The curves in the road are not really there
Stay to the right of the line
B-b-bus plunge (One more cup of coffee and I'll be alright)
The driver says bus plunge (pop a bennie, another bennie)
The driver says bus plunge, bus plunge
Don't brake for animals tonight
(Never mind the creatures in the road ahead)
The driver says don't brake for animals tonight
(Run the stoplight, run the stoplight)
The driver says don't brake for animals tonight
(Don't think about the lady in the Chevy turning left)
The driver says don't brake for animals tonight
(Almost home, you're almost home)
The driver says bus plunge, bus plunge


"Bus Plunge", by The Bobs, 1983
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:38 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Years ago, National Lampoon ran a photo montage of bus-plunge headlines on its True Facts pages.
posted by AJaffe at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2006


Oh! When I used to read the NY Times in print, I would turn first to the obits and then look for the bus plunge (or train wreck or African ferry rollover). I think it was the third page, right column, minor international incidents. A ravine somewhere. Rescuers being hampered. An estimated "death toll." Real people, in Times terms, would have been given a full article, but distant Indians or Ugandans were interchangeable: filler for the filler.
posted by pracowity at 9:11 AM on November 14, 2006


Bus Plunge - The movie
posted by phirleh at 9:19 AM on November 14, 2006


it isn't really via slate if it actually is a link to slate.

/nitpicking
posted by snofoam at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2006


I just want to know how many americans died.
posted by 2sheets at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2006


"Bus Plunge - The movie"

I thought that would be this movie.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2006


Here's another one: when the media wants to say someone is a bad guy then they live in a compound.

For some reason the good guys never live in a compound. It must be some sort of building code or city ordinance or something...
posted by webnrrd2k at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2006


I got your bus plunge movie right here!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:24 AM on November 14, 2006


Hey, A-Z's movie has Odo in it - and J.R.!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2006


Why do I immediately think of Michael Moorcock? Google fails me. I thought he had immortalised the "bus plunge" meme in the Jerry Cornelius chronicles.
posted by grahamwell at 10:29 AM on November 14, 2006


Killer band name, right there. I'm partial to Brazilian Bus Plunge. Dibs!!
posted by ubi at 10:34 AM on November 14, 2006


Can't believe the great Seattle Aurora Bridge Bus Plunge of 1998 (due to deranged gun toting maniac) wasn't mentioned.

It's not officially a Bus Plunge story unless it happens in Colombia, India, Pakistan, or a place you've never heard of.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:48 AM on November 14, 2006


Missing from this piece is the chart that explains the play based on relative value of the people involved. If there's a bus plunge every other day in, say, Bangladesh, it gets fewer words than rarer one in Albania.
posted by etaoin at 11:00 AM on November 14, 2006


How have I managed to never hear about such a bizarre phenomenon?

Oh, right, relying on The Tubes for news instead of papers. Still, this is a very cool meme. And, inexplicably, when I see the words 'bus plunge,' I hear them being pronounced like Al Gore intoning 'lock box' on SNL six years ago.
posted by Mayor West at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2006


Another 45 were wounded
This is another thing I've noticed AP doing lately--using "wounded" for "injured" when referring to non-hostile events or accidents.
posted by etaoin at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2006


I have never heard of this phenomenon either. What are other wierd journalistic conventions?
posted by arcticwoman at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2006


QuietDesperation is only half right. A good bus plunge can involve a church group (preferably a choir), a classroom of "bright" pupils, (for some reason theshort bus never plunges), a high school football team, and my personal favorite a "group of unsuspecting tourists".
posted by Gungho at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2006


The lesson is clear: When riding a bus, make sure all your fellow passengers are suspicious of something. Throw all the unsuspecting tourists off.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:40 AM on November 14, 2006


I got your bus plunge movie right here!

"Engage 'flags-of-all-nations!'"

*hundreds of flags pop up from roof of bus*

*pause*

"IT'S NOT WORKING!!!"
posted by brundlefly at 11:50 AM on November 14, 2006


I loved the Bobs. This sing was back when they were interesting and I was planning on posting it, Cynical Knight, if you hadn't.
posted by Danf at 11:50 AM on November 14, 2006


group of unsuspecting tourists".

My husband and I looked into that Columbian Bus Plunge Cruise offered by Travelocity a few years back, but we decided to go for the Zambian Swamped Ferry Adventure instead. It was great!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:57 AM on November 14, 2006


I really felt the impactfulness of this.
posted by BaxterG4 at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2006


Great post—thanks!

Missing from this piece is the chart that explains the play based on relative value of the people involved.

Not sure if you're serious; your reference to "the chart" implies that there is such a thing, but I suspect you're just riffing. In any case, the piece does address the issue:

Miller quotes foreign correspondent Mort Rosenblum's equation: "A hundred Pakistanis going off a mountain in a bus make less of a story than three Englishmen drowning in the Thames." By and large, if an American plunged on a bus, the news was always more likely to run as a free-standing story in a U.S. newspaper than as filler.

And I loved this bit:

Not all bus plunges were judged equal by the foreign desk, according to Siegal. "It was better when buses plunged in countries with short names," he says. "A bus plunge in Peru was infinitely easier to deal with than a bus plunge in Argentina or Paraguay."

I miss the old layouts with the K-heds...
posted by languagehat at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2006


You'd think amusement parks would have Bus Plunge thrill rides by now. OTOH, The Sweet Hereafter is the saddest film I've ever seen.
posted by cenoxo at 12:56 PM on November 14, 2006




Two or three times a month, the San Francisco Chronicle used to have an "Elephant(s) on Rampage" story. I haven't seen one in a while (but I also stopped reading the print edition). Maybe a representative from the Elephant Anti-Defamation Herd had words with Phil Bronstein.

Now, if those elephants were packed onto a bus careening on a slippery road through the Andes....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2006


I love how someone changed the {{unsourced}} message on this Wikipedia article to read "This article or section reads like some guy pulling facts out of his ass."
posted by grouse at 2:56 PM on November 14, 2006


I love how someone changed the {{unsourced}} message on this Wikipedia article to read "This article or section reads like some guy pulling facts out of his ass."

I was just coming here to say the same thing.

Classic.
posted by cholly at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2006


Yeah -- I looked at the source to see if there was an actual {fact-ass} template.
posted by zek at 3:52 PM on November 14, 2006


Two or three times a month, the San Francisco Chronicle used to have an "Elephant(s) on Rampage" story.

I was having a few beers with a bunch of Indians a while ago (well, I was having most of the beers), and I wanted to get to the bottom of the 'rampaging elephant(s)' story.

Turns out it's incredibly rare, but mass media gives the impression they happen all the time. Like school shootings in the US, I guess.
posted by spazzm at 4:29 PM on November 14, 2006


"What are other wierd journalistic conventions?"

Rather than "not guilty," we write "innocent," 'cause it's possible for the not to be accidentally dropped, leading to a lot of legal trouble.
posted by mistermoore at 4:38 PM on November 14, 2006


Oh, and lending any credibility whatsoever to the existence of a "liberal bias" in the media. That's a weird journalistic convention.
posted by mistermoore at 4:39 PM on November 14, 2006


In my college newsroom it was carnival accidents. We couldn't wait for 1-column news of carnival accidents -- the wrenching of limbs, the exquisite maiming. We didn't use any outside news as filler material, we just liked carnival accidents.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:32 PM on November 14, 2006


Yeah -- I looked at the source to see if there was an actual {fact-ass} template.

I can see the talk page now: "I've deleted several paragraphs that read like some guy pulling facts out of his ass, as a blatant violation of WP:ASSFACTS"
posted by moss at 5:55 PM on November 14, 2006


Thank you for this!
posted by donpedro at 8:47 PM on November 14, 2006


I love how someone changed the {{unsourced}} message on this Wikipedia article to read "This article or section reads like some guy pulling facts out of his ass."

Some dour Wikipedian with a poker up his ass has changed it back, I see.

I loved the same bit languagehat did (of course) -- there isn't any particular bias based on skin color or perceived level of civilization. It's just shorter country names.

I'd love to test that with a sample of a year's worth of wire stories and a year of the print Times. See if Fiji, Togo, Niue, and Chad all got bus plunge coverage above their population. Or aggregate highway mileage. Or elevation.

As it happens, I was just reading about Yungas Road in Peru Bolivia, which has been called the World's Most Dangerous Road. Seems it's the perfect highway design for a year's worth of bus plunge stories, year after year -- an intermittently paved track, barely a lane wide, hundreds of feet above a river, with the road itself subject to unpredictable rainy-season washouts. Apparently the BBC likes a good bus plunge story itself:

Further down the road we passed a spot where a set of fresh tyre tracks headed out into the void. They told their own story. Somehow, he only uses the verb plunge once.
posted by dhartung at 9:20 PM on November 14, 2006


I can see the talk page now: "I've deleted several paragraphs that read like some guy pulling facts out of his ass, as a blatant violation of WP:ASSFACTS"

Creating such a page is sooooooo tempting. Even if in userspace.
posted by grouse at 6:25 AM on November 15, 2006


Seems it's the perfect highway design for a year's worth of bus plunge stories..

Wait, so are so saying if you build it, they will plunge?
posted by tehloki at 11:38 PM on November 15, 2006


Bus Plunge, the follow-up.
posted by fixedgear at 8:31 AM on November 16, 2006


Great K-hed from the follow-up:
No Blood in Ants
Ants have no blood.
posted by grouse at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2006


A new bus plunge.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:15 AM on November 20, 2006


You beat me, grabbingsand!
posted by Danf at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2006


I dunno if that one counts, being in the US of A and all....
posted by fixedgear at 1:48 PM on November 20, 2006


Nope, the NYT hed is Bus Plunges, Killing 3 Alabama Students:

A school bus plunged nearly 40 feet off a highway overpass in Huntsville, Ala., on Monday and crashed nose-first into the ground, killing three students and sending 11 others to the intensive care unit, officials said.

No doubt the editors were well aware of the Slate series. It doesn't fit hte "one paragraph" rule, but then it is in the USA, which per the original definition merits an exception. The article also fails to note the distance from Montgomery, and to use the word "ravine" or "gorge". (It appears to have been an overpass raised above level ground.)
posted by dhartung at 6:11 AM on November 21, 2006


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