A penguin and a polar bear are sitting on an iceberg. The penguin yells, "No Soap Radio!" They both jump in the water.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ledeing the way

I've been struggling with ledes lately - the first sentence in a story, and the most important one. It's the only sentence that matters if the reader is only casually looking at your article. (It's spelled that way to avoid confusion with "leading," which is the space between lines of text, and something to do with an old type of printing press made from lead.) Today I looked to a few Associated Press stories for inspiration. I've learned you're going to want something that will grab the reader's attention:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with explosives hidden beneath cooking oil, canned food and bags of flour obliterated a Baghdad food market on Saturday, killing at least 121 people in one of the most fearsome attacks in the capital since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

This suicide bombing is the worst thing to hit Baghdad since....America! With news you're also going to want it to set the article's tone as unbiased and fair-handed:

WASHINGTON - The House passed a $463.5 billion spending bill Wednesday that covers about one-sixth of the federal budget as Democrats cleared away the financial mess they inherited from Republicans.

Good, but a little dry. Something like "Dragging themselves out from under the rotting elephant carcass still stinking up America's capitol, the Democrats took a break from hugging baby kittens to win an all-too-rare victory for working people, the downtrodden, and orphans today." Sometimes you're lucky enough for the story to write itself:

JAKARTA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Indonesia will drop hundreds of concrete balls into a mud volcano in a bid to brake the flow of hot liquid that has displaced more than 10,000 people and inundated entire villages in Java, an official said on Friday.

Seriously? They're trying to plug up the volcano with rock? Were they not present for the initial eruption? Because that's like treating a bullet wound by reloading the gun. I've got to read this. Just like the latest from Hollywood Boulevard:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A man dressed as Chewbacca was arrested after police said the street performer head-butted a tour guide operator in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Really, any news story that opens with "A man dressed as _______ was arrested" or "head-butted a _______ in Hollywood" is pretty much gold. The surprising thing to me about this story is the tour guide approached a visibly angry six-foot-four man who pays his bills by dressing up as Chewbacca and didn't think he was going to get his ass kicked. Lesson number one: Let the Wookie win.


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