Monday, June 29, 2015

Online vs Print Content

Sunday’s New York Times cover story was a feature about a young woman that had been entangled with ISIS groomers online. I saw it at first in print a Starbucks, then went home to finish the story by looking it up online.

When I searched and found the article, “ISIS and the young lonely American,” a video popped up, and for the next eight minutes I watched a young girl talk about her online ‘friends’ and her new found Islamic faith. The video did not show her face, but it played footage of her recounting some of her views that were not included in the print article.

The difference was significant: in the print version of the article the woman was dignified, if simply a little lost. In the video, she seemed almost childish, yet unbearably lonely in her grandparents house in the middle of nowhere. The video showed her room, her things, what she wore and other details that the article had left out.

I was intrigued initially, though, by what had been printed in the article, and I went on to finish the long feature after watching the video. Honestly, had I only stumbled across the online version, I may not have taken the time to read the story in its entirety after watching the video. It was very well written and I felt very personally involved in the story. Again I began to wonder about the future of Journalism and how the rising trend toward online consumption will change the way that we present the news.

This feature was very in depth, uncovered a complicated and frequently misunderstood subject, and was frankly a bit frightening. The use of the video footage of the subject of the feature actually enhanced its reality. When I was reading, I felt distanced from the woman and her issues felt alien and unrelated. When I watched the video, suddenly the was real. The two mediums gave completely different tones, yet in a way they complemented one another. The print story provided much needed storyline and background information, while the video allowed the subject to tell her version of reality to the viewer without filter or interpretation.

I’m not sure that the use of video would be effective in every online story, but for this feature it brought the people and places to life very effectively. The article can be read here:

Reporting Style and Perspectives on Mental Health

The New York Times Magazine recently released their “Mental Health Issue”, with the articles also available alongside the daily paper on the New York Times website. There are several interesting pieces, but a number of them are very personal and do not employ the objective, impartial observer stance required of a journalistic piece. This is an interesting issue to consider in relation to reporting on this topic, as mental illness is highly stigmatized largely due to a lack of understanding, and most high profile news around it seems to concern either celebrities or criminals. If reporters use personal experience as a “source” on a story does that discredit it to a degree, even if the topic is a subjective experience? At what point is a reporter “too close”? Why do we consider successful professors, actors, artists to be reputable sources to comment on their own illnesses, but shy away from criminals own declarations of instability when the result of their dismissal is some degree of disaster? It strikes me as selective reporting, brushing aside the issue of mental health care and the consequences of limiting access, marginalizing some sufferers, and normalizing others. 

These questions were in my mind as I came across a New York Times article about a young man who committed suicide after assaulting four Asian women in New York city this past week. The article focused on balancing evidence of his insanity and potential, spending more time detailing his troubled childhood and distinctly different adult life than it did on the actual crimes. I was curious as to why the sudden shift in his personality was not investigated in more depth, instead skimmed over in the article in one interview with an unnamed source at the very end. The closing line would have made a great lede for the story with this slightly re-worked angle: He was wearing a silver spacesuit and had a noose around his neck.” Overall the article felt like a collection of disparate facts and observations rather than a cohesive story that explained how or why the events occurred. It didn’t seem to commit to telling the story of the man or the people who knew his functional personality or the victims he attacked or the police who investigated the crimes, but took small pieces from each of these angles.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The hard news questions

By Cristin Nelson

My goal for this post is to share some thoughts about my experience writing the hard news story due last Friday.

I struggled with the tone and format of the article, but in the end, I decided to write it as a hard news story (as opposed to a “reax”).  My struggle with writing it as a hard news story stemmed from the fact that the purpose of a press release is for an organization to get exposure.  I believe that companies and organizations often invent “news” and send it out via press release only to further their agenda or to get their name in the paper.  So, why do we think that an AARP study finding value in older employees is anything other than AARP trying to ensure their own relevance?  How can we truly verify this information released from a company that has a dog in the fight?  Even if we contact the company for more information, how can we be sure they are giving us the whole story?

And, how do we know that by reporting it, we’re not just being used as the company’s marketing tool?  A line in the AARP press release indicated that they had done the same study 10 years earlier, with very similar findings.  (I can imagine that if a study delivered any other result, AARP would not publish it.)  I do believe that workers over 50 add value to the workplace.  But is a study with such a slam-dunk result—such a foregone conclusion—really news?  People of all sorts might enjoy reading about this, but the subject material isn’t especially groundbreaking.  And, in that case, I start to wonder how close we’re coming to marketing AARP’s agenda.

One time, within the last year or so, I pitched a story about a study released showing that over the years, potatoes had been unjustly slapped with a negative nutritional reputation—that in fact, far from being empty carbs, they had plenty of nutrition.  The editor wrote back that she thought this might be a tool from Big Potato, trying to increase sales, and we didn’t run with it.  I guess my question is: how do we know when we’re being used, and what do we do about it?  Any and all thoughts welcome.

RE: Quote, Unquote

The quote debate package highlighted for me the diverse opinions among professional journalists on what exactly "exact" means when we quote someone. Reading Mike Wise's, Deborah Howell's and David Carr's pieces on the subject made me more aware of a broad gray area between quoting subjects verbatim and "cleaning up" their words for whatever reasons. 

Although the fog within this gray area conflicts the debate, Howell and Carr, and I suppose majority of journalists, agree on the primacy of truth in quoting someone. According to Howell, "[s]imply put, quotes should be and sound authentic." "Exact" might not mean that we "include every momentary digression," Howell points. But we are "supposed to tell the truth as best we can," she adds. 

My take away from the reading: We can paraphrase all we want in order to make better sense of someone's point or to make certain points more intelligible. However, once we enclose words within quotation marks we should ensure they are the precise words. Otherwise we could be contributing to the eroding of journalism's credibility among the general public that might begin to question every other claim to the veracity of journalism's "facts."

For Howell, therefore, "It boils down to this: Be honest with readers.... but it doesn't mean reporters need to put every 'huh' or 'ya know' into a quote or to embarrass someone whose English skills are sparse." 

Cf.: 1. Mike Wise, After Utter Disaster, A kind of Hush
2. Deborah Howell, Quote, Unquote
3, Deborah Howell, A Dilemma Within Quotation Marks
4, David Carr, The Puppetry of Quotation Approval

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Discovering Unicorns

I got up early Saturday morning to walk a mile to Porter Square. First, I needed caffeine and something fried. Dunkin’ Donuts had an ample supply of both. Second, I wanted to see the local businesses on the road home. The next writing deadline would be here soon!

Thirty minutes later, with Dunkaccino consumed and French Cruller crumbs on my shirt, I took a leisurely stroll down Massachusetts Avenue back to campus. Numerous shops lined both sides of the road. One of them had to be interesting!

A Chinese restaurant was the first to catch my eye. It didn’t look like a chain store. I could interview folks and order some pork fried rice for later. That was interesting enough for me!

I pulled on the door. Locked. I pushed. Still locked. The restaurant wasn’t open. My plan fell apart before it even took flight! I lamented both this terrible setback and no fried rice.

My disappointment didn’t last long. One block later, I discovered a unicorn!

Photo Source: Abe Navarro

A record store! A bona fide record store! Sun-worn album covers served as a backdrop for a weathered RCA Victrola dog statue displayed in the window. Jazz echoed from within.

I thought digital music technology rendered these stores extinct! Up to this point, the last record store I saw was Championship Vinyl featured in the John Cusack movie “High Fidelity.” Apparently, a real one survived the digital revolution.

I reached into my backpack and pulled out a pen and note pad. “This is going to be so cool,” I whispered.

The moment I entered, that prediction came true.


I interviewed an HR manager for the AARP press release story who made a comment about age-related stereotypes, repeating the notion that some people question the work ethic of younger employees (echoing Brooke's complaint in an earlier class). The whole issue reminds me of an article that appeared in the Economist years ago about video games, and made me think the parents of baby boomers (who are now the parents themselves) probably told them they were lazy, too.

Defending video games - Breeding evil?

There's no solid evidence that video games are bad for people, and they may be positively good

“IT IS an evil influence on the youth of our country.” A politician condemning video gaming? Actually, a clergyman denouncing rock and roll 50 years ago. But the sentiment could just as easily have been voiced by Hillary Clinton in the past few weeks, as she blamed video games for “a silent epidemic of media desensitisation” and “stealing the innocence of our children”.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Final Blog Post For The Week

Hello All,

I found some excellent articles online (Note: Not associated with our course or Jeremy’s lectures) about making a great nut graf.

Feel free to check them out.


The Open Notebook:


Michelle Rafter Website:

LA Wordsmith:

Decoded Arts: (The Nut Graf: Feast or Famine for Your Readers?):

Share the Word: (The Art of the Nut Graf: Don’t Just Get New Vistors, Keep Them):’t-just-get-new-visitors-keep-them/

The Travel Writer’s Life: (Write an Article that Sells; Use a Nut graf):

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pulitzers that moved me

The first feature story that I read was John Branch’s snowfall. Initially I was interested because in the story because in Colorado, students that ski frequently are encouraged to attend avalanche safety meetings, and it is a significant threat that comes along with the adventurous culture of skiing there. However, as I read each elaborate description of the avalanche and the people that endured it, I was felt somewhat let down. There are graphics included in this five part series, but it jumps around in an un-chronological order, and I found myself confused and wondering if I was reading it properly. The writing seemed as though it attempted to be so cutting edge, that I actually had a lot of trouble figuring out what the author was getting at.

What was cutting edge about this article, though, was in fact the graphics. They develop as the reader scrolls through the page, and provide movie-like moving images that show the reader exactly where on the mountains each victim was. This five part series was something that only could have been written for online viewing, and it presents a bold and innovative way to share a story. Unfortunately, however, the images tended to render the detailed writing obsolete. After reading a page’s worth of detail about the mountain, its shape, and where the victims were, the reader would come across a visualization that presented the same information in a visual, and frankly more understandable way. It seems that the writing and the moving graphics should compliment and build on one another, not serve as an exact copy.

The piece by Lane DeGregory in the St. Petersburg times is one of the most compelling things I have ever read. The story of the little girl that grew up in a closet of her own feces and bugs is a disturbing one. Yet DeGregory is able to tell the story with professionalism and grace, following the young girl’s treatment. I was so intrigued, that I could not have stopped reading even if I tried. The way that the story of this young girl is told is so compelling. What I like most about DeGregory’s feature is the way the interesting little details construct the larger meaning. DeGregory will use a story about Danielle’s eating the entire chocolate egg, wrapper and all, to give an understanding of her cognitive abilities, rather than just saying that she didn’t know how to eat.

Also, the research that DeGregory includes in her consultations with Danielle’s doctors added much needed color to the story, as well as a foundation for understanding. There was one line in that section, in part one, that left me totally dumfounded:

"Primates need comfort even more than they need food," Armstrong said.

There are so many messages in this story about human kindness and the essence of what it is to be human. Of everything I have read, I have never read something that accomplishes this so well, without expressly saying it at all. I felt like I was in the story, like I was there. In the end, I was not only floored by the writing but moved to tears by the story.

Leading with a Gentleman

I enjoyed reading Diana Marcum's engaging New York Times-like long lede in her Los Angeles Times piece, Drought imperils a dream. In the seven short paragraphs of the lede, Marcum gradually answers the who, what, when, why, and how questions. The where will follow later in the nut graf.

She begins by telling her reader that Fred Jujan is called a gentleman farmer. Then she lets the reader know why in three arresting examples.

Marcus's piece is a beautiful illustration of yesterday's class discussion on lede and nut graf.


A Pleasant Surprise

Yesterday, I interviewed two sources for our local news story assignment. The first source I knew well. The second source, however, was a stranger I met while purchasing coffee in the Science Center. Beforehand, I predicted that the first interview would be a relaxed endeavor while the second would be a harrowing disaster. I was only half-right.

My interview of the first source went as expected. We discussed the AARP study. He also shared personal anecdotes of his numerous employees over the years. The conversation eventually focused on the turbulent atmosphere he experienced in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a student at Boston University. I enjoyed catching up with an old friend. With that interview behind me, I did not look forward to talking to strangers.

My second source fell into that category.

Although I stammered through my initial introduction, I was surprised to see how accommodating my second source was. It was almost like she wanted me to do well. Our conversation evolved organically from a Q & A about the AARP study to society’s perception of youthful entitlement. This previously unknown person soon became my coffee companion for a small part of the evening.

In the end, the experience reminded me of the opening scene in “Fight Club” where Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden referred to Edward Norton as his “single-serving friend.” I only hope that my third source proves to be just like their brief relationship, but without the punch to the face.

"Forty-One False Starts" from the New Yorker

The New Yorker is obviously a slightly different style of publication than the newspapers we have primarily examined thus far in class, but I thought this was an appropriate and entertaining segue between ledes and feature writing: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Decided to share some GREAT ledes, feature stories and journalism interviews that coincides with what we have been talking about so far in the course:

Great Sports Ledes:

Clippings 2015 masters ledes:

Great Feature Stories:

Vanity Fair Magazine, Caitlyn Jenner Story:

Is this the most Boston store in Boston?:

Great News Story:

West Side drug dealer has customers lined up around the corner:

Interviews that have gotten massive media attention:

NEW STORY, An example of how the behavior of someone you’re interviewing for information, overshadows the real issues at hand and becomes the center focus of the story:

OLD STORY, An example of how the behavior of someone you’re interviewing for information, overshadows the real issue at hand:

Notes: If anyone has any feedback/comments on the pieces I've chosen, or if you agree/disagree with my choices I’d love to hear some feedback or insight if you all have time!

Please do feel free to add any other pieces you think would be great in these categories as well.

Here, fluffy, fluffy

By Cristin Nelson

Working their way up the food chain” (The Boston Globe, June 24, 2015) called to mind today’s in-class discussion about fluff.  The lede begins:

“If your only culinary experience involves watching TV food shows, you might think cooking is always creative, glamorous work—developing recipes, designing meals, living the life of a celebrity chef.

“But if you work in the restaurant industry, your reality may be quite different: long hours, repetitive tasks, low pay, high stress.”

The focus of the article is on free culinary classes offered by nonprofit organizations, which are designed to provide marketable skills to unemployed or underemployed people.  On a superficial level, the lede makes sense, but in reality the connection between the lede and the rest of the article is very weak.  The important story here should be the job-training benefits provided, not the workplace environment of a chef.  A later quote from a staff member (“We don’t claim to be training chefs… What we’re looking to do is put someone into a better position to get an entry-level job in a restaurant kitchen”) is related to the idea in the lede, but comes off as defensive.  And, if this quote really is related to the lede, it throws a defensive tone over the lede, as well.  Are there people who suspect that these nonprofits are using funds to launch glamorous culinary careers and need to be convinced otherwise?  Perhaps.

The conclusion is that if the lede is, after all, appropriate for the ideas written here, then I believe it is missing the better angle and the true societal weight of the story, which should really be on the impact these nonprofits are making in the community.  If it is inappropriate—well, then it is fluff.

A separate note is that based on today’s lecture, I am unsure about the structure of the article.  It briefly profiles two separate programs offering cooking classes, gives statistics about their enrollment and post-program employment numbers, and interviews staff as well as one program graduate.  It is not an inverted pyramid, because the second nonprofit isn’t introduced until the last third of the story, but the intention from the beginning seems to be to showcase multiple organizations.  It isn’t an hourglass or a narrative, because it contains no real narrative.  And it isn’t a donut, because the lede isn’t an anecdote that we return to at the end.

I believe the donut could have been the most effective structure for this piece, not only because an anecdote could make a very nice lede here, but because I would have liked to see some larger issues discussed in this case.  This is, at its heart, an article about measures being taken to help jobless folks get back on their feet, and some recognition of big picture unemployment issues or statistics would have been appropriate.

To Lead or Not to Lede

A man cools down with water during a heatwave in Karachi on June 22, 2015.  Photo source: AFP

The following lead appeared in today's edition of The New York Times (p. A4).

"KARACHI, Pakistan -- Karachi's poor learned long ago to cope with the many adversities that afflict Pakistani's most crowded and chaotic city, including flooding, street violence and political crises. But since a suffocating heat wave descended on Karachi three days ago, killing at least 650 people, they have found no respite and no escape."

The lead works. It is effective. Besides answering the 5HW (who, what, when, where, why, and how) questions, the lead grabs the reader's attention with the vivid images it employs for its description of the city and the plights of its residents. It lets the reader know that this might yet be the height of the challenges faced by Karachi dwellers, thus bringing the reader to feel for them.

The second lead, from Boston Herald (p. 4), reads:

"After more than two years of going to "hell and back," Liz Norden said she's summoning the courage to tell convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev just how she feels today."

While not requiring any improvement, the second lead has quite a different appeal. It points to an agony of some untold stories of the Boston marathon bombing. It touches on an incident that still stirs the emotions of many people in Boston, particularly, and hence reaches for the reader's interest to read more.

NB: I could not find any lede that requires improvement. Hence, I ran two that accomplished their task. However, in the course of the program, I will surely revise this post whenever I find the appropriate material.

Getting into the Minds of a Sports Fanatic: Good Lede vs. Bad Lede

Getting into the Minds of a Sports Fanatic: 

A Lede That Worked

A great, story, an interesting piece for the sports fanatic and a story with a lede that not only makes it interesting but allows the reader to know what the conclusion of the article will be and how much attention they must pay to the Bulls and Derrick Rose next season. I am talking about a story titled “The Bulls need to start preparing themselves for life without Derick Rose.”, written by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The lede of the story was amazing, and brilliant at best. Why? Basically, the headline concludes that The Bulls need to be worried about loosing Derrick Rose, and no longer having him on the team. The lede, starts off with the now fired Head Coach of The Chicago Bulls Tom Thiboudeau, complimenting Derrick Rose.

The lede starts off saying “Tom barely changed his stance on point guard Derrick Rose. He was loyal to the end” (Joe Cowley, Chicago Sun-Times). The lede continues with a quote in which Thiboudeau says, “I want to say this about Derrick: It was a long year,” Thiboudeau said after the playoff loss to the Cavaliers last month. “The good thing is I think he has regained his confidence. “I think he’ll have a great year next year” ( Joe Cowley, Chicago Sun-Times). After being fired from the Bulls, it would suggest that Tom Thiboudeau’s compliments of Derrick Rose hold loyalty but also truth that Derrick Rose has been playing very well, regardless of the continued losses and playoff loss of The Bulls against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

For those of us who follows sports, The Bulls have been terrible and Derrick Rose has been considered not so popular like he use to be because of his performance in the NBA. It seems he is on his way back to NBA superstar status. Even Tom Thiboudeau noticed Derrick Rose’s performance throughout the last year and mentioned how Derrick has regained his overall confidence as a player. 

"Fired with two years still left on his contract, Thibodeau will only have the chance to observe that from afar. And he could very well be right. Maybe Rose is headed back towards elite status. After a regular season in which he played 51 games and averaged 17.7 points per, shooting a dismal 28 percent from beyond the three point line, the playoffs seemed to flip a switch for the one-time MVP, as he averaged 20.3 points, shooting 35 percent from three, as well as handling out 6.5 assists” (Joe Cowley, Chicago Sun-Times). Arguably, the article suggests on wether Derrick Rose will stay with the Bulls or leave to another team because of his continued improvement as a player. Will he become more valuable to the point where Chicago can’t afford him anymore because of their failures? 

In conclusion, I think article held a great lede. It provided us with an immediate opinion of Tom Thiboudeau, fired Head Coach of the Chicago Bulls, complimenting Derrick Rose’s performance and stating how Derrick has gained his confidence back and will have a great year next year. It gives us as sports readers interest into the story, that the Head Coach of the Bulls would be so loyal and truthful enough to even mention Derrick’s improvement as a player. As readers it allows us to continue reading the story on why and how The Bulls should start preparing to lose Derrick as a player on their team? The title of the article itself gave the lede a bit of a boost as well. 

The Bulls Need to start preparing themselves for life without Derrick Rose:  

A Lede That Didn’t Work: 

An article with a title called “A Quiter Sports Season, And Why Tennis Needs Caddies” could sound depressing, annoying to people who love and live for sports. Is goofy humor with no real seriousness the best way to go in a lede?

Ah, it’s summer, and sport is of a sweeter sort now - don’t you think? For instance, of all the jobs in sport, I think maybe the best is retrieving foul balls. The boys and girls in that job get to wear uniforms and gloves, but mostly they just sit and occasionally gather up a foul, then give it away to some happy fan. Isn’t that a neat job” (NPR, Sweetness and light, the Score on Sports with Frank Deford).  

A sports lede that starts off with humor and almost zero seriousness, doesn’t relate to the story and title at hand can potentially go bad. Ledes must hold credibility, some sort of a source (a quote etc.) and a connection with the title. Similar to the Chicago Sun-Times article about Derrick Rose, having someone important quoted in your lede or even a catch phrase that is not only interesting but catches your attention, in a way that does’ automatically turn you off. 

If a lede sounds stupid or comes of as forced humor to sound interesting or funny by personality, I would be turned off right away and not amused. Ledes should be interesting and humors, but they also have to hold merit, reliability and importance. Scanlan says, “An effective lede makes a promise to a reader or viewer: I have something important, something interesting, to tell you “ (Scanlan, The Power of Leads and Ledes, pg.1). 

In conclusion, I think this lede fell short because the overall personality of the article was too much and not serious. When you talk about change in sports, I would assume sports fanatics take changes and opinions or ideas very seriously. Based on the readers comments below, it might have turned them off throughout the entire article. Scanlan says “Ledes are the foundation of every news story, no matter what the medium” (Scanlan, The Power of Leads or Ledes, pg. 1). Ledes must be the platform  for every good story and this lede wasn’t. 

The Quieter Sports Season, And Why Tennis Needs Caddies:

Notes: I had a hard time finding a news story with a bad lede, but I wanted to give something. 

New York Times Ledes

“The sacred text arrived at dusk on a Thursday in November”. 
The Obtuse Triangle, Nicholas Dawidoff, 23 June 2015.

Initially I was drawn to this story because the title, “The Obtuse Triangle”, stuck out in the sports section. As a sports fan, athlete, and recreational over thinker, I find geometry in sports fascinating and was simply hoping this story would explore the mathematics behind a certain style of play. The lede, however, completely reset my expectations. It took a much more narrative and dramatic tone than I anticipated from the title and excited me to be open to learning about much more than just one play. Even though this sentence provides very little useful information in relation to the rest of the piece, it hooks the reader in its mystery: what is this text considered “sacred” by basketball fanatics? Why was its arrival such a ceremonial experience for the writer? What is a story like this doing at the top of the sports section? 
The text, which turned out to be the original playbook containing the explanation of the Triangle Offense used by Phil Jackson in his coaching hey-day with the Bulls and Lakers, functions as an organizing element through out the piece. The author moves between his personal experience reading the playbook in an attempt to make sense of the misunderstood offensive system and the larger debate about what the Triangle actually is - if Phil Jackson is to credit for his teams successes; or if the Triangle is; or if neither of them are and it was solely the star power of his teams that generated so much success. In a story that brings together such a variety of anecdotes, histories, and sources it is settling for the reader to have this text to return to with the author to not feel lost amidst the non-chronological nature that information is distributed. 
However I found using the text as the angle of this article to be a slightly odd choice. The Warriors, who just won the NBA Championship, are coached by a former Bulls player who implemented his version of the Triangle with Golden State this season - clearly to a great effect. Jackson also re-implemented this offense with the Knicks this season to a dismal effect. These aspects of the story were both mentioned and explored in reasonable depth as separate entities, but I left wondering why the dynamic between these two outcomes was untouched and the original text given so much more weight. It does seem timely to explore this offense in the wake of this season, but this specific relevance seems strangely downplayed.


Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is climbing in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has drawn thousands of people to rallies for his presidential campaign recently in Denver and Minneapolis. But the shooting last week in Charleston, S.C., has highlighted a daunting obstacle he faces in the Democratic primary contest: Black voters have shown little interest in him”. 
Bernie Sanders Lags Hilary Clinton in Introducing Himself to Black Voters, Patrick Healy and Johnathan Martin, 24 June 2015. 

While this lede does inform the reader of some of the conflict that the rest of the article will explore, the way in which the information is presented feels disordered. It seems important to include that his campaign is gaining traction in some states while Black voters have shown little movement in his direction, but the additional information about the specifics of his most recent campaigning and the shooting in Charleston seem like bits that could be returned to later in the story, especially because other, equally explored, aspects of the article are not included in the lede. It wasn’t clear from this combination of headline and lede what the specific focus of the article was going to be, which ends up mainly discussing his branding and ability to relate to non-white voters, as well as his former engagement with race issues and stance on gun control. The information within the article felt somewhat stitched together rather than seamlessly connected, just as the prioritized pieces of the lede felt like they were picked in an attempt to add buzzwords to the first paragraph rather than accurately indicate the direction and scope of the article. 


This lede also deserves an honorable mention because, as far as obituaries go, this one is pretty great: 

Don Featherstone did not invent Phoenicopterus ruber: Nature took care of that eons ago. But what Mr. Featherstone did nearly six decades ago — in the process indelibly altering the landscape of midcentury America — was to cast the creature in plastic and attach slender, rodlike legs for planting it in the ground.
Mr. Featherstone, a sculptor who died on Monday at 79, was the inventor of the pink plastic flamingo, that flagrant totem of suburban satisfaction and, in later years, postmodern irony.
Don Featherstone, Inventor of the Pink Flamingo (In Plastic) Dies at 79, Margalit Fox, 23 June 2015.

Bikes and Flags

The following lead is from a news story in the Boulder Daily Camera:

Mike Newlands of south Boulder tries to ride his bike to work at least twice a week. But twice a year on Bike to Work Day, he gets a little special enjoyment out of seeing so many people riding alongside him.

This lead is not especially effective. While its use of a specific person seems to be effective, as it provides relevance and tangibility for the reader, too much information is revealed and the incentive to continue reading the story is lost. This occurs in the second sentence, which reveals that the story will be one about Bike to Work Day. If the reader has no interest in Bike to Work Day, then he or she will not read on. Additionally, even if it were essential that the lead contain the information about Bike to Work Day, it fails to answer an essential question: why should the reader care about Bike to Work Day? The last sentence leads on into the story a bit more effectively, perhaps if the reader is curious about how many of their friends and neighbors participate in Bike to Work Day. I however, did not read on.

The following lead is from a news story from the Associated Press:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The Confederate battle flag was still flying high atop a 30-foot pole outside the South Carolina Statehouse on Wednesday as lawmakers prepared to honor their beloved black colleague with a viewing in the Rotunda.

But elsewhere around the nation, leaders were already demoting the historic but divisive symbol. By the order of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday, four Confederate flags displayed for two decades around a large monument to secessionist soldiers outside that state's capitol were being were being taken down.

This is a better version of a lead. Immediately, conflict and tension is presented. The reader is given an image of a confederate flag flying, and another one of it being torn down, symbolizing the different responses by the leadership governing the two separate locations. Details such as the height provide vivid imagery, while vague statements like “their beloved black colleague” leave more details to be filled in. The reader is given an incentive with this lead to read on to understand the fundamental differences between the two leaderships. In fact, the focus on the leadership (“lawmakers”) in the two contrasting paragraphs provides an immediate focus for an article attempting to tackle a broad topic.  Between the description of the ‘historic but divisive’ and ‘secessionist soldiers’ the reader is given enough context for the historical significance to which the article is referring, without being given an entire history lesson. If done purely chronologically, a brief history of the civil war would come first, not only removing incentive for readers to continue but perhaps even deterring them.