Get the name of that bra

Upon entering journalism about 30 years ago, one of the first reporting tools I learned was to “get the name of the dog.” [See Tool 14.] That dictum — sometimes posted on T-shirts — reminds writers of the value of the specific detail — not just the name of the dog, cat or bird, but also the brand of the beer or the make and color and year of the sports car.


Which brings me to one of my favorite newspaper stories in a long time. It appeared in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and told the tale of a woman saved from a serious bullet wound by her seat belt strap and her bra.


“A lucky combination of her van’s windshield, seat belt and her thick bra straps helped deflect a shot fired at [Robin] Key and her husband, Donald, as they sat in traffic Monday in Riverview,” reported Abbie Vansickle. “The bullet grazed her shoulder, but Key, 44, wasn’t seriously injured. Deputies later accused two men of the apparently random shooting.”


The first part of this story lacked some crucial information: What kind of bra was Ms. Key wearing? If a bra can help stop a bullet, I want my wife wearing one. But what brand, reporter, what brand?


“On Wednesday Maidenform called the Times. The bra company had heard Key’s story. A spokeswoman offered free bras and lingerie.” Oh, so this wonder bra came from Maidenform? Not so fast.


Key told Vansickle, “I’m a Playtex girl.” That company was ecstatic, eager to send their warrior princess new bras. But what model? The Secrets bra? The Thank Goodness It Fits bra?


Vansickle reports that Key giggled: “It was an 18 Hour bra,” said Key. “It has these cushy straps I just love.”


Out of healthy curiosity, I Googled the 18 Hour bra and found this link.


No wonder the bra helped deflect a bullet. It looks stronger than the body armor we’ve been sending to our soldiers in Iraq.


My interest in this topic is now, happily, exhausted. Thanks to the reporter, whose enterprise reminds us all to get the name of the dog — and the brand of the bra.


 – Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar

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