A tragic story today in Atlanta, where an Ohio college baseball team's bus tumbled off a freeway overpass, killing at least six people. The Associated Press' lede said: "A charter bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio plunged off a highway ramp early Friday and ..."
Why do buses always plunge? Pay attention to the next bus wreck stories you see, especially if the bus tumbled down a mountainside, or spears through a marketplace, or simply takes a nose-dive from an overpass. They always plunge ... which seems to be the exclusive verb that comes to the mind of most reporters when they write about bus wrecks.
No? Couldn't possibly be the case? The journalistic phenomenon is so well-known, it's been the subject of several articles, such as Jack Schafer's Slate column last November, in which he said "on average, the news wires publish one or two plunge stories each month."
You can even join the "Bus Plunge Network" to monitor and contribute examples. At that site, you may even read an interview with a Plunge Driver!
Here are a few recent examples:
Kantipur Online, Nepal - Feb 26, 2007 KURINTAR, Chitwan, Feb 27 - At least 14 people were killed and 31 injured as a Birgunj bound bus from Kathmandu veered off the road to plunge into the ...
Huntsville, Ala. - Nov. 20, 2006 (CBS/AP) - 3 Girls Dead In Alabama School Bus Plunge
(BBC) - Sixteen people are dead, and at least 16 more feared killed, after a bus plunged into a river in central Turkey.
So why does this phenomenon persist among supposedly creative wordsmiths? It was simple: The stories were perfect short fillers. Bus-plunge stories could be made into perfect "fillers" very easily. From Schafer's column:
"The elements of a definitive bus-plunge story: Plunge should appear in the hed; the piece should be only a couple of sentences long; and it should 'include the number feared dead, the identity of any group on board'—a soccer team, church choir, or students—'as well as the distance of the plunge from the capital city.' The words ravine or gorge should appear. "