Topeka Capital Journal
June 27, 1986.
The other day here, writing about gobbledygook, I quoted an Illinois statute, in which the first sentence was more than 260 words long. A friend remarked that it must not have been written by a newspaper man – or newspaper person, as we are supposed to say now – because they are trained to write short “leads,” or opening sentences.
It doesn’t always work out that way, as the sentence above proves. But it is true that editors like short and simple beginnings, and some of them get nasty about it.
James Thurber had an editor who demanded short leads, and made such an issue of it that one day, covering a news story, Thurber wrote:
“That’s the way they found John Doe today.”
And that brings us to the subject of memorable newspaper leads and headlines, Continue reading