Amen to your commentary (Commentary, Dec. 6, “Spare us the anecdotal lead,” by Will Shuck) about those stupid feature leads on news stories.
I retired after 40 years in the newspaper business. One of the most annoying developments during that time was the brilliant idea aimed at hiding the lead of the story. Make the readers find it.
If the headline writers followed that trend (and some of them do, unfortunately), you would have to really dig down into a story just to find the topic.
It’s little wonder newspapers are struggling. How do such stupid ideas as feature leads on news stories actually make their way into print? Is it the pressure to change something to boost readership? Maybe. It’s still just plain stupid.
Most stories can work with an anecdotal lead if you have the right anecdote. If I were assigned your hypothetical story on a bill to promote pet neutering, I’d ask the local animal shelter to let me witness the disposal of euthanized corpses of unwanted pets. Then I’d make the reader witness it, too, in a few terse, choice sentences in an anecdotal lead. It would not be wasting anybody’s time; it would be driving them to the heart of the story in a way that “The state Senate is considering a bill to …” never could.
Los Angeles Times
(Mr. Shuck): You are SO right about the anecdotal lead. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for years, and I always intended to write a piece about it — but you’ve scooped me. Congratulations.
Actually, this was one of the bones of contention with others on the editorial page during my brief career at the Los Angeles Times. One of the smaller ones, I guess. Anyway, well done.