Avoid them like the plague until the last dog dies
Avoid journalese and the cliché lead -- the easy
lead that you've read a
thousand times. The cliché lead does not necessarily employ a cliché. It
is an overworked formula. Here are a few examples:
The 'He leaned back in his chair/tree/whatever'
After a while, in a startling and unexpected development,
sorrowful Jesus H. Christ, 33, son of the Almighty, leaned back against an
olive tree, stretched out his 5-foot, 10-inch frame, put his head in his
hands as tears slowly rolled down his cheeks --"quite a few tears" informed
sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said -- as His very close
associates looked on.
The question lead
Ever wonder what happened to Tom Mix?
Most people don't. The famous movie cowboy of yesterday is not a
familiar name among today's movie-goers. But ask a teenager about George
Clooney, and you'll get a complete biography.
The Webster's Dictionary lead
Webster's defines cliché as a trite phrase or expression. If that's
true, then this lead is a cliché, and . . .
The that's good, that's bad news lead
The good news is that on-line classes have begun.
The bad news is that most students don't have
The unrelated Zimmerman lead
Adolf Munch reached into his rear pants pocket and pulled out his worn
brown leather wallet. He fumbled through the small denomination bills,
crumpled grocery lists, credit cards and old photographs before pulling out
a shiny, new card with his picture on the front.
Munch is one of many who have opted for the new credit cards with a
photo identification on them.
The 'that's what' lead
Some leads are easier to write than others. That's what 15 reporters
participating in a Poynter Institute online seminar said Monday.
The 'What's My Line' lead
It's new. It's state of the art. It's easy to use, and even easier to
understand. It's the Poynter Institute's online classroom.
The 'thanks-to' lead
Thanks to Bud Pagel, the journalism college teaches story-telling ratherthan dumping the notebook.
The holiday lead
Sunday was Valentines Day, but you would not know it by the way taxi
drivers were treating their riders.
The go-look-it-up lead
When Dick Thien was born in 1939 in St. Louis, Franklin D. Roosevelt was
president and newspapers cost less than a nickel.
The one-word lead (Variation of 'that's what')
That's what most people think journalists are.
The word lead (Variation of the one-word lead)
Flabbergasted was the only word that Jack Hart could think of when all
the reporters got their orientation exercises done on time.
The 'typical' lead
At first glance, the Associated Press Managing
Editors seems to be justanother typical news organization. It's that and
more, John Quinn says.
The 'in common' question lead
What do Charlie Chaplin and Bill Clinton have in common?
The Rodney Dangerfield lead
Garbage collectors get no respect.
Lawyers get no respect.
But coach Frank Solich says his Cornhuskers are going to get respect.
The time-is-important lead
Today, Feb. 15, is the first day of online instruction for journalists
across the country.
The I-fooled-you lead
Sex, drugs and booze.
That's not what you'll find in newsrooms today, Kent Clark, managing
editor of the Gotham Daily Planet, said.
The 'many' lead
Many journalists don't know they exist, but online courses in
newspapering are being offered by the Poynter Institute.
The 'exceptional' lead
Most journalists have trouble writing a snappy lead, and Edgar Poe is no
The 'now-look-at' lead
When your parents bought their first home,
mortgage interest rates were only 2 percent. Now look at what they are.
The quote lead
"It was a wonderful contest, and I'm glad my pie won," Jessica Pillsbury
said upon getting her blue ribbon Saturday at the Whoopee County Fair.
The 'adding to the intrigue/mystery' lead
Adding to the intrigue of when the journalism college will move into its new building is when the number of students will justify the space.
A person or situation can be intriguing (i.e. fascinating). But you stretch the definition beyond repair, and get into the misty world ofduplicity and romance, when you fall back on this
cliché lead. An intrigueis a scheme or love affair. The same logic applies if mystery replaces
The King James English lead
The faxman will certainly cometh to readers, and grammatical error may
cometh to the lazy reporter who uses this tired cliche lead more than once
every 10 years.
(The suffix -eth is used only with third-person singular, present-tense
verbs -- not with plurals, not with first or second persons, not with
future tenses. In addition to being wrong on the grammar, such writers are
mistaken in imagining that this stale device looks clever.)
The 'not alone' lead
George Tuck likes black and white photography. Tuck is not alone.
(Writing an anecdotal lead requires an eventual transition into the body
of the story. That transition is the weak joint, the point at which
writers are liable to sacrifice the reader's interest. They have often
sacrificed that interest with the not alone transition: If they can't do
better than that, they ought to skip anecdotal leads.)
The 'Welcome to' lead
Computer keyboards are clicking away, telephones are ringing and people
are shouting across the room to one another.
Welcome to the Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper at the University
of Nebraska in Lincoln.
(The "Welcome to" gimmick is another lame transition from the anecdotal
lead to the body of the story after some description of some woeful
situation. This device should always be unwelcome.)
The 'Meet John/Jane Doe' lead
Few have professional experience.
Many have Ph.D.s.
Too many have little regard for the media, but love to talk about the
"mass media," whatever that is.
Most haven't been inside a newspaper newsroom, or radio or television
station in more than a decade.
Meet the journalism college faculty at almost any major journalism
program in the United States.