Monday, September 14, 2009

News ledes: A refresher course

LEDES FOR BREAKING NEWS of obvious importance should get to the point quickly. You don't have to stuff everything in there, just the crucial information. Check out these samples:

* (AP) A new audiotape, reportedly from
Osama bin Laden, denounced President Obama on Monday as no different from his predecessor and warned that anti-American attacks would not stop unless the United States ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* The Flathead County attorney said Friday that felony charges will not be filed in the case of a fatal boat crash on Flathead Lake that killed a Whitefish man. (Kalispell Daily Interlake)

* Kent
teachers have approved a new contract and are heading back to their classrooms. (Seattle Times)

* The Missoula City Council on Monday adopted the 2010 budget proposed by Mayor John Engen - a plan that isn't expected raise taxes this fiscal year. (Missoulian)

* Kalispell state Sen. Greg Barkus is back in Kalispell, and said he remembers little of the circumstances of an Aug. 27 boat crash near Bigfork that injured him and four others, including U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. (Flathead Beacon)

* Missoula County health officers expect a wave of so-called swine flu cases as the school year moves deeper into September. (Missoulian)

what's interesting about stories that aren't obviously important. Check this out:

The tiny male bat didn't expect to wind up in a biologist's hand when he set out in search of a nighttime snack along Box Canyon Creek.

After being snagged in a net, weighed and measured, the unhappy creature gnashed its teeth and squirmed as Pat Ormsbee stretched its wing for inspection.

The light from a headlamp shone through the translucent tissue, revealing bones tinier than toothpicks.

"This is one of the key things we need to be looking for," Ormsbee said, scanning for rips or scars that could signal infection with white-nose syndrome, the mysterious blight that has devastated bat colonies in the northeastern United States. ...


1. A Topic Lede: President Barack Obama gave a speech today on the importance of education (or any other vague topic. No news here.) A variation: The School Board argued for hours last night over financial matters. (So what? What did they say that was newsworthy?)

2. The Question Lede: Should nonresident UM students get a break on the cost of big game hunting licenses? (That's lazy.)

3. The Quotation Lede: "You can't compete with free," says Fred Dowling, owner of a local music store for nearly 30 years. (What's the context here?)


Don't assume every reader is up to speed with ongoing stories. You'll make more sense to more people if you bring them up to date. This crucial background graf is from a story on the work Montana law professors are doing on a controversy over physician-assisted suicide.

Montana is awaiting a decision from its Supreme Court on whether physicians can help terminally ill patients who choose to die. A state district judge says they can because Montana's constitution specifially guarantees every citizen's dignity. But Montana's attorney general argues that the practice could lead to unwarranted deaths.

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