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Monday, February 16, 2015


Don't bury the lead paragraph
LEDE GRAPHS R-US—Reporters from the crib portion of their careers are hammered on to say as much as possible in the opening sentence/opening paragraph of articles they are penning.  Fashioning the lede is an art form.

Here are two examples:  In the first example excellent headlining saves a weak intro paragraph.  The second article has rambling headlining but a super opening paragraph.

The following article was picked up by Time Magazine.  It is a terrific media essay with a less than sterling first paragraph, however, the headlining is first rate.

Ira Stoll’s article first published in Zocalo Public Square blog has the following opening graph:
            “...I started my first blog 15 years ago, about the same time Andrew Sullivan embraced the form.  Sullivan’s highly publicized decision to end his blog doesn’t surprise me, but it is not the “end of blogging,” despite some premature obits to that effect. I can testify to that
Blogger Ira Stoll
firsthand. I still run two blogs: (which is about exactly what its name says) and, the latter the very same blog (examining the sins of The New York Times) that launched me on this path...”
Now, add the headline and subhead to the above first paragraph:
            “NO, BLOGS ARE NOT DEAD”
            “In an Era where institutions are dying, individual media is still king.”
Who ever wrote the headline and subheadline for Stoll’s meandering opening paragraph saved the whole piece and as a result most likely this article will have a long run online.  Example of that is Time’s reposting.
Zocalo Public Square is a first rate “think piece” blog.  ZPS is a project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University focused on being a not-for-profit ideas swap blending live events and humanities journalism).
For the link to Ira Stoll’s article get thee to:

Mary McNamara, the TV Critic for the Los Angeles Times penned a stunning first paragraph in her article on domestic violence.  Her page 1 article’s opening words captures the reader immediately.  That’s the goal of lede paragraphing in journalism.

Critic Mary McCarthy
“...A few years ago, my husband, wanting to call 411 Information, accidentally dialed 911.  “Oh, sorry,” he said when the dispatcher answered, and he hung up.  Five minutes later, a police officer arrived at our door...”
In her case the headlining does its best to distract the reader from an otherwise potentially award winning article:
Here are the headline and subhead to McNamara’s Feb. 2 essay:
            “A POWERFUL MESSAGE”
            “Forget puppies, Mindy Kaling and dads—nothing is more important than the NFL’s No More domestic violence ad.”  

In parting, today’s blog topic reminds me of a wise publisher, who once told his brand new editor of PSA Inflight Magazine.     
            “You may fashion a terrific issue of a magazine and it will be less read if it has a poor to mediocre front cover.   But, a terrific cover will do its best to save a so-so issue.”

                                                            --The late Jeffrey S. Butler, Founder and Chairman, East/West Network (inflight magazine publishers Los Angeles, New York, London.

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