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I like narrative leads -- but not this one

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    On L.A. Observed, Kevin Roderick contrasts the leads of the NYT and the LAT on the killing of at least eight in Covina. He's right -- the L.A. lead is dramatic, I guess, but boy, it sure doesn't cut to the chase on such a horrific event nearly quickly enough.

    http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2008/12/covina_death_toll_at_leas.php
     
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    You're right, SF. But it's not the worst thing out there.

    I'm glad the 8-year-old girl is alive, but how fucked is it that he shot her in the face?
     
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I like some narrative leads, but they get overused by writers the way cutouts are overused by page designers. And for the same reasons:

    1.) Habit or fad or boss says so

    2.) No faith that the basics of the story/photo are strong enough to get/hold interest without jazzing it up.

    There is a story in the January issue of GQ about the guy in Poland who came out of a 15-year coma to a new world (communism gone, children grown, grandchildren born, supermarkets filled with all kinds of cool stuff). And the story leads with a prehistoric bug being drowned by sap, which over the years turns into amber. Now that isn't an invalid analogy. But a dead bug that stayed dead is less interesting than a live human back from a coma. Much less interesting. Much, much less interesting. And the drawn-out description of how the bug came to be dead isn't really pertinent because neither bugs nor tree sap played any role in the man's coma or his awakening. Like the L.A. story, it's an example of a writer believing an extraordinary story isn't extraordinary enough without the writer exerting his will on it.
     
  4. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I liked that he explained where the man had been on the same day in years past. He just took a graph too long to get there.
     
  5. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Yeah, I can see that. A short graf or two would have been OK. This was just too much.
     
  6. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Five wonderfully constructed grafs and we don't know that he killed eight people.
    Now that's writing ::)
     
  7. Screwball

    Screwball Member

    Wonder if the writer was told what those of us in sports often are: This was all over the TV and radio and web the day before, so slam the breaking news on the web but do an analysis/commentary/explainer/narrative for the paper. The link is to the story in the paper.
     
  8. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Too bad it didn't work. You lay off too many people in the newsroom and you get this coming out in the end.
     
  9. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    If I were the L.A. editor, I'd tell the writer to give me a straight news lede.

    Narrative ledes work for featury stories. They don't work for seeing eight people killed. That's a Journalism 101 mistake.
     
  10. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    The it's-been-out-there-all-day perspective is exactly why it was written this way. For those who say that newspapers should evolve into the more contextual version of the Internet, this is a challenge. Might have worked better if there had been a two-graf box with the story on the cover detailing the news as it was known then.
     
  11. 2underpar

    2underpar Active Member

    the narrative would have worked better with an explainer of how many dead, etc. higher up in the story.
     
  12. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Yeah, I'm not saying narrative leads can't work on big breaking news -- but we needed to know that eight people died a lot quicker.
     
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