Posts Tagged ‘intro’

A headline that doesn’t make sense

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

While reading the Times story “Opera Winfrey says goodbye to television talk show after 25 years“, I accidentally noticed another headline which says “Focus on the big issues, not bananas”.

I was so curious that I decided to click through to find out what it is about. Here it is:

Focus on the big issues, not the bananas
Open elections, greater democracy, energy and aid should head the list for Europe’s new leaders

Alas, after 20 words, I figured out what this article is about when I see “Europe’s new leaders”.

I don’t know if there is any cultural connotations in the headline. If not, I have to say this is really a bad headline no matter how “fit” it appears to those who finish reading the article.

The intro is also terrible.  Subject is too long, and verb is too far away from the subject. Even though it comes in S-V-O format, it fails to deliver the message effectively.

I understand this is a comment article, not a piece of news, but still, it could have been better, at least in terms of headline and intro line.

BBC is said to have the best intro for its stories. I searched BBC site and here’s some of its headlines and intros:

  • The Record: Europe
    After weeks of horse-trading and meetings in smoke-filled rooms, the top EU jobs have been appointed.
  • EU foreign head dismisses critics
    One of the two newly appointed figures to the European Union’s top jobs has hit back at criticism that she does not have enough experience for the post.

PS: When I typed the headline of the Opera Winfrey story, I typed “said”, and then I realized it is “says”. This reminded me of what my TV Journalism teacher Richard said over a week ago: “Try to use the present tense to engage your audience” (not the exact words, but the meaning is there. Thanks, Richard. )


This is the “Lead” I’m talking about

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

According to Melvin Mencher, author of News reporting and writing, there are two kinds of leads: direct and delayed.

Direct lead usually presents who did what at when, and sometimes where. This applies to most hard news stories.

Delayed lead usually buries the key theme of a story somewhere in the body texts (though not very down, usually in the second or third parapraph). The purpose of the lead is to attract readers to find out what actually happened. This often applies to feature stories.

There are two examples I liked so much, both of which were written by Edna Buchanan, a Pulitzer Prize-winner from The Miami Herald.

The first story was about a man with prison history named Gary Robinson. One day, he went to fried-chicken outlet and wanted to jump the line, but he was persuaded to stay in line. When his turn came, he found that the fried chicken  he wanted were sold out. What happened next was that he assaulted the woman at the counter, and a security guard shot him. Buchanan’s lead was:

Gary Robinson died hungry.

The second story was about a drug smuggler who died from broken cocaine-filled condoms he swallowed.  The lead was:

His last meal was worth $30,000 and it killed him.