Bring out your lede

“Is that a talking dog?”

Once upon a time, there were these people called journalists.  They wrote stories about stuff they saw or heard, often using short, attention-grabbing devices to pique your interest in finding out the rest of the story.

I used to be one of those broadcast journalists.  I even taught other people how to do that news-writing thing, usually referring them to examples of something called the “inverted pyramid” – basically a structure that places the barest, most important who-what-when-where-why stuff at the top, leaving the sordid details below.  If  you’re pressed for time or space, the inverted pyramid lets the reporter or editor chop details from the bottom without losing the guts of the story.

The headline or anecdotal lede (sounds like reed) is another device that’s often used – especially by those in radio.   I made up this quick example as part of a discussion on keeping your lede front and center.  I thought the story (with its classic headline) was weird.  I like weird so I’m sharing it here.

Man bites dog; mutt lives to tell the tale.

Joe Blough was walking down Main Street around 6:30 Monday evening.  The street lamps were just coming on to light his way through the darkening skies. Out from the shadows stepped a dog of uncertain parentage and ownership.

“Show me your papers,” demanded the scowl-faced man.  The mutt gave a sharp bark, refusing to comply.  Joe, being a rough, burly sort accustomed to his demands being met, took this as an affront to his obviously superior homo sapiens status.

You see,  Joe spent many years with international mercenaries, training canines and carrier pigeons so the animals would do the private army’s bidding. Poop bombs and going for the jugular were the specialty areas for which he received many accolades over the years. It was this attitude that Joe carried with him that evening: a submissive dog is the best dog.  For this particular four-legged fellow however, that dog don’t hunt.

The mutt took an athletic, growling leap for Joe’s throat but his trajectory was slightly off.  Joe tilted to one side and grabbed hold of  the dog’s ear with his teeth, shaking him.  Angry and bleeding, the dog limped back to the alley. That’s where I came in. I am the vet who found him and to whom he told his tale of woe.

Joe Blough was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm.  He awaits trial.

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