Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forbidden ledes

For all you junior league players out there,* here's a diagnostic test. When removing the lede paragraph from a story produces utterly no effect whatsofreakingever on the subsequent content, you have a lede you should kill. As in:

Call it good news that could be a whole lot better.

Cancer incidence decreased about 1 percent a year from 1999 to 2006, and deaths dropped an average of 1.6 percent a year from 2001 to 2006, according to a report released by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

"Call it" is your first hint. It's on the master list of Forbidden Ledes, which should have been freshly etched on your forehead with a soldering iron this month, owing to the high likelihood of Christmas coming early and grinches doing stuff to unlocked cars and all that. But more to the point: Place your thumb over the first graf. Read the second graf. Now go back and read the first graf.** Might as well throw the poor thing out, gratuitous reporterly judgment and all.

You shouldn't kill ledes at random, true. Editors look out for writers' interests as zealously as they look out for readers' interests. But both those parties are served best when the Great Cliches are quietly left to die on the floor of the composing room. Really.

* Sorry, too much Don Cherry in the media diet of late up here.
** If you're a Fox reader, remember to raise that thumb first!***

*** That wasn't very nice, was it? Won't happen again.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

But fev, I let you read Fox for me so I don't have to!

1:38 AM, December 09, 2009  
Anonymous raYb said...

The whole point of a lede is to tell you something, isn't it? Since there is precious little good news that couldn't be better, what does that lede tell you? 'Cept that the writer was trying to be clever.

12:18 PM, December 09, 2009  

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