Journalism 101 Just the facts, please! A presentation by Mike Duffin
Using the inverted pyramid • Organize the facts • What information is essential? • Who are your sources? • Why should we read this?
The lead • This is the most important part of any story • After reading the lead, readers decide whether they want to continue on • Leads should not be more than 34 words
Types of leads • Summary lead • Delayed lead • Anecdotal lead
Summary lead • Summarizes what happened • With this lead, the reader will get a general idea of what the story is about • The Bears won their season opener 42-16 Sunday afternoon in San Diego against a Charger team considered by many to be a Super Bowl contender. • Cedric Benson scored three touchdowns (how) as the Bears (who) defeated the Chargers 42-16 (what) Sunday (when) afternoon in San Diego (where).
Delayed lead • This lead is broken into two sentences • The first is short and allows the writer some degree of creativity • The second provides the real information • It’s time to rewrite the history books, asterisk or not. (This is short and catchy.) • With all the controversy surrounding his alleged steroid use, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record on Tuesday night during a 4-3 loss to the Nationals in San Francisco. (Here is the delayed lead.) • The 44-year-old slugger hit a 374-foot shot into the right fields seats at SBC Park in the fifth inning off of Washington pitcher John Adkins. (Additional information.)
Anecdotal lead • This lead puts a personal spin on the story • On Monday, Jackie Benson was cleaning her son John’s clothes in preparation for his first year of college. On Tuesday, she was making his funeral arrangements. • John Benson, 18, was shot by a stray bullet outside his Calumet City home at about 6:36 p.m. Monday. He was taken to Advocate Christ Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. • For the third time in a week, gang-related violence has claimed the life of an innocent bystander. • “It just isn’t right,” Jackie Benson said. “My son was never involved in gangs. He was a good student with a bright future.” • Police spokesman Pat King said no arrests have been made in the shooting, although he added that there are several leads. • Benson was set to attend Purdue University, where he had a scholarship to play basketball. The 6-foot-5 guard earned All-State honors after scoring 25 points per game in his senior season at Thornwood High School.
Sources • Who should you quote? • What type of quotes should you use? • Look for sharp, to-the-point quotes • Don’t be afraid to ask the same question twice (just word it differently) • Do not publish a cliché response such as, “We’re giving it our all” or “We’re taking it one day at a time”
Facts • Make sure that you answer the who, what, where, when, why and how… • Is the information correct? • Is every name spelled right? • Is there any other information that is vital to your story?