Stuff Journalists Like – #83 Anecdotal Ledes

When it comes to writing ledes, journalists have a number of different weapons in their arsenal.

There’s the tried-and-true summary lede, which gives readers the five Ws and how. It’s simple and takes the least amount of effort, but usually it’s duller than a journalist’s wardrobe.  For even lazier journalists, there’s the quote and question ledes (these should be avoided 99 percent of the time).

There’s a lede for those adventurous journalists who want to give their stories a bit of zest, color, and flavor – the anecdotal lede.  Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the anecdotal lede as too playful, too “featury” but it’s the one lede that gives most journalists the greatest satisfaction.

Generally, news writing doesn’t’ call for too much creativeness of journalists. Journalists cover an event or issue, write down who said what, report what happened, then slap on their byline and go on the next story. But when the story calls for it (and when there’s enough time before deadline), a journalist will try to dust off that last remaining creative brain cell and try to punch out a anecdotal lede.

All journalists should try the anecdotal lede every now and again. But like Indiana Jones, choose wisely. When an anecdotal lede is good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it can make editors cringe, readers skip the story, and force journalists into hiding.  Journalists shouldn’t be discouraged from giving the anecdotal lede a shot.  But, of course, not every story calls for an anecdotal lede. The story about the grandmother who has met every president since FDR – sure. The triple homicide piece – maybe just stick with the hard news lede.

If the hard news lede is a stiff shot of whiskey, then the anecdotal lede is the refreshing colorful girly drink served in the playful glass with an umbrella. Though most nights you just want the stiff drink, it doesn’t hurt to try something else on the menu (just make sure the vet journalists aren’t looking).


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