Thursday, December 13, 2007

Outcome, not process

One of the handiest bits of advice you can give beginning news writers (often struggling to keep their noses above water amid a tide of made-up "grammar" rules, arcane formulae for where the attribution does or doesn't go, the official-looking language of sources and the looming stylebook of doom) is a nice simple one:

Talk about outcomes, not about processes.

That's really what the whole idea of the inverted pyramid is all about. Don't show me all the steps that point toward the conclusion; just tell me the conclusion, then back-fill as necessary. Alas, it's the sort of advice that seems to be wanting among the crack professionals at TV stations too:

A judge made a critical decision Thursday morning in the case of a man accused of gunning down two restaurant managers in Dilworth.

Yes, that's why judges make the big bucks. Care to tell us what the decision was?

The judge ruled Derrick Gregory could face execution if he’s found guilty.

Hmm. Sounds -- with some revisions -- like a potential lede. There's a lot of fixing between this item and some ideal state of genuinely publishable form, but none of it's worth doing if the writer can't figure out which foot to step off with.



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