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"Editing" a story

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by millseyboy11, Nov 17, 2007.

  1. millseyboy11

    millseyboy11 Guest

    I don't post here very often, but I am looking for some advice.
    Tonight, I covered a high school playoff game where a team came back from a 10-0 deficit to win the game. When I sent the story, my opening paragraph was "In high school football, it's not how you start the game, but how you finish. That rule was illustrated tonight as Podunk came back from a 10-0 deficit to defeat Bumfuck 21-10 in their bi-district playoff."

    I just checked on line, and it was changed to "Podunk started slowly. But the Mascots had a nice finishing kick."

    I thought my opening was better, and I'm really pissed that it was changed by the copy desk. Which was better, and why?
  2. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    To be brutally honest, I think that's a lame lede. And Buck is correct.
  3. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Neither, in all honesty.

    I hate generalization ledes, which yours is. Sure, that's true in high school football, but when isn't it true? And, actually, in a large number of high school games, it IS how you start. Start by scoring four touchdowns in the first quarter, and that's generally that.

    I like the desk's slightly better, if for no other reason than it's shorter. But what I would truly prefer is something like this:

    With his team trailing by 10 early in its bi-district playoff game, Podunk quarterback Haywood Jablomie gathered his teammates and said, simply, "we ain't losing tonight."

    Then, with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes, he made sure they didn't.

    Also, the first score that appears in your story should be the final score. Say a 10-point deficit if you need to. With the 21-10 final, it should be obvious what the score was.

    EDIT: I typed the last graf before I saw buck's response.
  4. dragonfly

    dragonfly Member

    OK, this is a slightly different scenario, but it's in the same vein, and since this thread is called ``editing'' a story...

    anyway. i'm often given a length by the desk for a short game story in the 8-10 range. then, when i check online, only 6 inches runs. fine, it happens. but for some reason, they choose to cut out every single one of the quotes i got. to me, that's really missing the points. the quotes are what let the reader know a reporter was on site and talked to people there for analysis. otherwise, i could've just written off a press release. i understand cutting quotes down or cutting all but one, but cutting all quotes entirely doesn't make sense to me, especially when the story is written to be cut from the bottom if need be.
  5. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    Did the quotes add anything to the story other than the "I was there" aspect, or did they restate things you had already written or fall into the "They were a tough team. We're glad to come away with a win" category? Sometimes that's all a coach/player will say, but when I'm on the desk on deadline, those kind of quotes usually are discarded when a story's got to fit.
  6. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    I get pissed whenever someone dicks with my lede. Chop the hell out of the rest of the body, but either leave the lede go or give me a call.

    Last year I worked an Alice in Wonderland motif into an advance I did, and the person editing my copy changed "curiouser and curiouser" in my lead into "more curious." GRRRRRR!
  7. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    If there's enough time before deadline, a good copy editor will call the writer before making those kind of changes to a lede. Otherwise the copy editor will make the changes he/she feels are needed to make the story read better. But to answer millseyboy's question, I don't care for either lede.

    In terms of cutting quotes from a story to get it down to 6 inches from 8-10, it depends on how your online system is set-up. Does the version of your story that gets posted online come from the copy desk or does it come from what appeared in the paper? Is it the copy editor cutting the quotes to get it down to 6 inches or was it the paginator who made the cuts to make the story fit the hole and that's the version that got online?
  8. A good rule is ... if this lede could have ever been written before word-for-word, it's not a good lede.

    Find something unique about your comeback - a play, some color, a quote, a post-game prayer (jk) - and go from there.
  9. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    Neither lede is great, but the desk likely changed it because, as buckdub said, you never want to have a score other than the final score come first in your story.
  10. ondeadline

    ondeadline Active Member

    It sounds like the desk changed your lede without calling you and you should have at least been called.
  11. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    It's as cliche a lede as you get. Yes, we know it's not how you start, that it's how you finish. Even the edited lede was weak. What happened in the 2nd half that made the outcome so different? What did Bumfuck team do so well in the 2nd half? Was there one play that made the difference? Build off that? What was the single most important thing in this playoff game? Had the team ever won a playoff game before? Had it been many years since the team played in the playoffs? Did the other team just play above and beyond in the 1st half? Did Johnny Ramirez the QB pepper his team with a killer halftime speech? In your first sentence, we have no idea what happened in the game.
  12. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    I'll only change a lead if it's really bad or really long. And I'm guilty of both myself when I write stuff.

    That all said, I'll echo that I wasn't a fan of either lead. I'd have went with, "Podunk scored three times in the second half to rally past Bumfuck 21-10 in their bi-district playoff Friday night." Pretty lame, but gets the key information in there and doesn't muddle things up with cliches.

    Plus, coming back from 10 points down ain't that big of a deal to me. Two touchdowns and you're ahead. Unless they scored all their points in the last eight or 10 minutes, it's not really lead-worthy to me. Or unless there was some big-time halftime speech that got them going, or unless there is a stark contrast in the stats between the first half and the second half or between before they started scoring and after. If there is, then that should be touched on in the lead somehow. If not, I'd rather say, "Tommy Quarterbackguy threw three touchdowns to lead Podunk to a 21-10 win over Bumfuck in their bi-district playoff Friday night."

    But I wouldn't be ticked off about this lead. Desks are going to change a lot of leads in your life. Learn to only get mad about the good ones. Don't sweat most of you Friday night football leads.
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