1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Ledes in The New Yorker

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Small Town Guy, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    I started subscribing to the New Yorker a few years ago. Love it. But awhile ago I started noticing that a large number of the stories start off the same way, with an intro such as "In 1985," or "On September 3, 1987..." Eventually, I fell behind on my reading and I had New Yorkers piling up next to the bed. With a few days off here, I dove into them and went through three or four of them. And, yep, many of the features do start that way.

    From the current Nov. 12 issue:
    Malcolm Gladwell: On November 16, 1940, workers at the Consolidated Edison building on West Sixty-fourth Street in Manhattan found a homemade pipe bomb on a windowsill.

    Connie Bruck: In April, 2005, Sam Zell travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

    Calvin Tomkins: On the Saturday before the May sales at Sotheby's and Christie's, the New York showrooms of both auction housees attract a cosmopolitan and fairly select crowd.

    From the Nov. 5 issue:
    John Lahr: On a sweltering morning in mid-March, three executive producers for HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David Mandel, Alec Berg, and Jeff Schaffer, lolled around in shorts at the patio table of a Malibu beachfront house waiting for the actors to arrive so that the day's shooting could begin.

    Anthony Grafton: In 1938, Alfred Kazin began work on his first book, "On Native Grounds."

    Raffi Khatchadourian: One afternoon last winter, two ships lined up side by side in a field of pack ice at the mouth of the Ross Sea, off the coast of Antarctica.

    Elizabeth Kolbert: On September 29, 1993, President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, the chief executives of G.M., Chrysler, and Ford, and the head of the United Auto Workers gathered in the White House Rose Garden to talk about cars.

    October 29 issue:
    Ryan Lizza: On a recent Thursday in Derry, New Hampshire, Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, was engaged in a conversation about milkshakes.

    Steve Martin: During the ninteeen-sixties, the five-foot-high hand-painted placard in front of the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm read "World's Greatest Entertaiment."

    Bill Buford: On July 7, 2001, Frederick Schilling and his girlfriend, Tracey Holderman, arrived in New York to attend the Fancy Food SHow and launch Dagoba, an organic-chocolate company.

    Jill Lepore: In February, 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson rhapsodized about young America, "the country of the Future," as "a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations."

    Hilton Als: In 1885, on his twenty-ninth birthday, George Bernard Shaw slept with a woman for the first time.

    So...not sure if this is a criticism of the New Yorker or not (I think probably not). I certainly think it shows there's a definite New Yorker voice that the writers or editors get into the stories early. Now, I read nearly every word of each of these stories, and nearly every one was extremely interesting, several were fascinating. So does that mean ledes are overrated as far as drawing you in? Or does this just prove that the best ledes don't have to be real fancy, that being understated and straight forward is the way to keep you reading? Not sure. Just wanted to throw it out there. Sorry for the length.
  2. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    Four words I've never said in succession. ...

    I was taught, and always practiced it, that you shouldn't start a story with the when. Once in a while, I could understand. But that type of repetition would drive me nuckin' futs.
  3. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member


    I prefer to set the scene and interweave details in the story.

    Something like...

    Mitt Romney sipped his vanilla milkshake because, really, what other flavor milkshake would Mitt Romney sip?
    On a balmy Thursday afternoon in Central park, he's wearing a vanilla suit — well, no it's navy blue — has a vanilla haircut, talks about vanilla subjects and smells like vanilla cologne. Could be a little cinnamon in there , too, just to spice it up.
    This is your likely Republican candidate.

    got TDP in there without really hammering it into your skull.

    Just my style, though.
  4. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    I think the when works on occasion, use it myself, but that's just one trick.
    And the ledes you posted -- I read the New Yorker myself -- they aren't as much meant to establish the when, as the overall tone of the piece.
    The Zell story was very good and you knew it was going to be good because as a reader you knew that the reporting, writing and editing had been going on for six, seven months.
    That doesn't work so well with tight deadline newspaper writing, but for a magazine like the New Yorker, you kind of expect it.
  5. Here's to this thread skyrocketing in dazzling proof of how ANAL-lytic this community continues to be. Nevertheless, usually in the NYKR, when the formal style is assumed, it precludes a narrative reportage sequence (ie. "Ambush in the poppy fields," which probably set a number of your panties' in a bunch(s) because it disregarded the foremost participle... er, burying the friggin' three-pointer, slamer-dunker, booyahh-ing lede). Hence, yes, it's not all about the lede, and it never has been (most ledes suck anyway).

    But here's a lede I particularly like, from the New Yorker:

    "In the ski-bum brain, the chance to ski with a magus like Andrew McLean is the equivalent of an invitation for a night on the town with Don Juan. The allure is great, but there's always a possibility that the excursion will not end well. McLean is a ski mountaineer; he climbs mountains and then skis down them...."

    God speed. And good work on finding results that continue to suit your profile--always the mark of a good reporter.
  6. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    My favorite lead (by my favorite NYer writer, Susan Orlean) isn't in the mould.

    If I were a bitch, I'd be in love with Biff Truesdale.

    It is, of course, a profile of a show dog.

    In the Orlean canon, the nearest thing to the template here -- or at least the nearest thing I can drum up with a quick look -- is the story of a reporter at a small-town paper:

    A day begins in the village of Millerton, New York. A man pauses while shaving and says to his wife, "I think I'll run for mayor." Down the road, a cow expires mysteriously. Happenings, great but mostly very small, cascade thereafter.

    I have no problem with the NYer ledes mentioned in earlier posts ... house style? Call it what you want. Orlean's style is so idiosyncratic she's exempt. I doubt Joe Mitchell ever toed the line either.

    YHS, etc
  7. beardpuller

    beardpuller Active Member

    I'm wondering now if I could finally win that damn cartoon caption contest by starting my caption with the date ...
  8. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Who-whooooo, I'm not the only one who noticed the New Yorker's style. Jack Shafer documents the date ledes from this summer.

  9. Unless, of course, you are Jack Shafer. ;)
  10. I like the date ledes. As Shafer writes, it anchors you into the story immediately, which I think is very important in this day and age of less patient readers. Obviously if you're getting The New Yorker, you're probably not a USA Today devotee, but I think you still prefer your stories not ramble.

    Influenced by The New Yorker, I've used the date anchor in my long-form feature ledes a lot more the year or so and I think it really helps the narrative launch smoothly from there.

    It's funny because I was taught way back in high school that starting a story with a date was a faux pas because "dates aren't interesting."
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page