A Good Lead, A Bad Lead, How’s a Journalist to Know?
On page B6, in the middle of the page, there is a headline which proclaims, “Man dies while repairing silo.” When one reads the lead, it is apparent that it meets Clark and Scanlon’s suggestion to “keep leads short” (291). Not too much information is jammed into the lead. It seems perfectly legitimate and it leaves a hint of mystery which could compel the reader to continue farther into the article. After all the lead says, “A Somerset County man collapsed and died Monday while working inside a silo on a Washington County farm,” it does not resolve why the man collapsed. Wondering what happened to the man, the reader’s eyes would continue down the lines of text. I think this is a good example of a lead. It’s short, gives information, but keeps the reader curious. However, there is something else interesting relating to this article. It is the subheading which is located right above the lead. It proclaims, “On his 40th birthday, a worker collapses on a farm in Washington County.” The information that the man died on his birthday is included in the second paragraph of the article, so why this little snippet of information in larger text and italics to attract the reader’s eye? Probably because the fact that it was his birthday adds an extra-level of oddity to the story which will attract interest.
In contrast to this “good” lead, on page A3 on the right hand side is an article entitled, “Swine flu toll may hit 90,000.” The lead is quite long, the opposite of what Clark and Scanlon suggest. It is a full 5 lines long packed with statistics and numbers: “Swine flu may infect half the nation’s population this year, hospitalize 1.8 million patients and lead to as many as 90,000 deaths, more than twice the number killed in a typical seasonal flu, White House advisors said.” While trying to inform the reader and convince them of the importance of the issue, it seems to be stating things a bit strongly. It’s almost like it is trying to scare people
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