Sunday, April 26, 2015

The forbidden hed

Q: Having just indulged in one of the Great Cliches on Friday, is there a way you could possibly make it worse upon elevating it to the frontpage display type on Sunday?
A: Actually, there are several! You could, for example, make the meter even clunkier. You could insert a random comma in the "oh my!" part. You could even -- not wanting to spend precious creative time looking up whether commas go inside or outside quotation marks -- try it both ways!

It's hard to emphasize this rule of hed writing too often: If it's the first thing that comes to mind, lie down and wait for a second thing to come to mind. It's certainly hard to imagine why anyone would consider this a gift from the gods to a languishing hed world. The sports world, as usual, is a prime offender:

Seahawks schedule: Lions, Tigers (well, Bengals) and Bears, oh my! 

2015 MASCOT DEATHBRACKET: Dragons, Tigers and Bears, oh my

But the movie angle has appealed to others too:

Dinosaurs and ants and bears: Oh my! 

And it's still a Forbidden Hed when real animals are involved:

Fish and turkeys and bears, oh my!
Lions, Wolves and Bears, oh my!  Game and Fish offers seminars on large carnivores to teach safety and awareness

Lynx and Wolves and Bears, Oh My! Europe's Carnivore Resurgence

Getting the meter almost right will not save you:

Readers take on hot wings and I-4 and bears, oh, my!

... though there's some merit if you actually manage to nail it:

Texas and dildos and bears, oh my! Alcee Hastings insists Texas is 'crazy,' also bashes Florida

In general, though, this is how good you should be if you want to get away with one of the Great Cliches:

Lying and taiga and bears—oh my! Russian president lays the blame for Russian woes at the feet of the West and "fifth column" insurgents

Any questions?


Friday, April 24, 2015

Thumb ledes

Two cases of the thumb lede in the first four pages of the morning paper.

Why "thumb lede"? Because you can place your thumb over the first paragraph with no damage to the rest of the story! See how easy it is?

There will be no panda-monium in the Motor City.

It's a little hard to forget about the notion, especially if you forgot it shortly after somebody said it on TV a year and a half ago, but you'll notice that the second graf has all the impact of the first, with none of the panda-monium. (As an added bonus, though, the story actually gets worse online: the fourth graf becomes "It's simply too dang expensive.")

On to page 4A and a metrically flawed thumber: Cookies and brownies and Rice Krispies treats, oh my!

... garnished (healthfully!) with a piece of elongated yellow fruit: "the tasty — but less healthy — homemade confections."

Beware the thumb lede. Why make readers wade through your prose before they get to your news?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

His master's voice

Pro tip for the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: Don't peak too soon, kids.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Because ... he died in 1989?

There is, as alert readers might have noticed, a pretty straightforward problem with Thursday's Obama Shock Outrage question: Mistah Khomeini, he dead. Thus it's kind of fun to trace the tale back through the journalistic checkpoints to its apparent beginnings. (Yes, you can draw conclusions about the quality of Near East reporting these sources provide.)

The Fox Nation -- which, oddly, managed to find a picture of the right guardian/jurisprudent for the homepage -- borrows both its film clip here and its text from the Daily Caller, as credited in the insert:
During Thursday’s White House briefing, the Associated Press’ Jim Kuhnhenn interrogated press secretary Josh Earnest over the Obama administration’s unequal treatment of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Not entirely true, but hang on a second:

Kuhnhenn asked the White House flack why the Ayatollah is getting “the benefit of the doubt” from the administration over comments about the Iran deal last week, but Netanyahu does not after his comments that there would be no Palestinian state.
Read more »

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to write headlines

Oyez, oyez. Order will now be come to by the Loyal Order of Friends of the Passive Voice. Even if the idea is not spoken aloud in your inner circle, verb voice is best chosen according to the mission of the headline, not some strange whim half-remembered from the journalism class you didn't pay attention in anyway.

The exclamation points are nice, but they're really just garnish on those majestic passive clauses. This 1A play from the Cleveland Morning Leader was brought to you by the Washington Post.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Today in visual journalism

Wonder how many times we'll see the Maniacal Hillary mug over the next few months. That should make an amusing content analysis for someone.

Meanwhile, enjoy this from the Weekly Standard, headed "Brooklyn hit with anti-Hillary street art" (and dutifully picked up by the Daily Mail):

A source sends along these photos from Brooklyn today of anti-Hillary Clinton signs everywhere. Clinton is expected to announce her presidential campaign later today. The campaign's headquarters are located in Brooklyn.

The signs appear to be a riff on a group of supporters calling certain words often used to describe Clinton as sexist. Words such as 'secretive,' 'ambitious,' and 'entitled.'

The signs are posted near Hillary's campaign headquarters:

(Here follow the, um, three photos that earlier were "everywhere," though somehow "street art" seems to invest it with -- oh, a bit of a borrowed aura?)

It is not known who posted or funded the Brooklyn street art.

Bummer. Too bad we didn't think of asking the source, huh?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tormented lede of the morning

Raising the musical question: Is there a particular kind of crime the cops aren't supposed to investigate?

General principle of lede-writing: When in doubt, tell us who did what to whom. Save the doin'-what-you-don't-confess for your budding career as a singer-songwriter.

OK, one more thing. As long as you're going to edit for online readers, why not try it for print victims too?

The U.S. State Department and Department of Defense did not return calls seeking comment Thursday evening. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf had said last week that an operation to rescue Americans in Yemen was too risky, and "could put U.S. citizens' lives at greater risk" because "the situation in Yemen is quite dangerous and unpredictable."

It's nice to have spelled "quite" correctly (especially if the alternative was adding a comma to "quiet, dangerous and unpredictable"). It's probably nicer, transparency-wise, to have pointed out that the comments came from a briefing last week, rather than leaving open the possibility that they were some sort of response to Thursday evening's* curiosity.

* Were the lawsuits filed after hours, or did it just not occur to anyone until evening that comment might be warranted?