The Curse of the Fill-In-The-Blank Lede (cue dark music)

Folks, this is a note I sent to the sports peeps today. After reading stories from the other sections of The Shorthorn, I knew it’d be applicable to others, too. (If you’re in news, life or photo, please sub out sports references for something more appropriate – event coverage, etc.)

Spring is the busiest time for sports at UTA, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Kudos for being everywhere at all times – I don’t think there’s a major event we’ve missed this semester. That said, I’ve noticed a trend in sports ledes lately that might be highlighted because you ARE writing so much as a group. We’ll call it The Curse of the Fill-In-The-Blank Lede. (Don’t worry, the curse can be lifted easily.)

Symptom: If you removed the who-what-where-when part of your ledes over the last few stories and they are the same structure, you have a FITB lede.

Example: The UTA Mavericks (15-12) fell to No. 18 Baylor University 5-2 Wednesday evening at Allan Saxe Field.
Here’s the basic structure highlighted: The UTA Mavs beat/lost to No.  # School Score on Date Place.

Why this lede doesn’t always work: Let’s face it – people are following you on Twitter for the scores … so no one cares in the opening of the story – they want the answers they can’t get from hearing a play-by-play or haven’t already gotten from you or another news source (things like the score). That would be answers to questions like WHY and HOW did things happen, and WHAT will they do next to fix/keep things going. Things like the most amazing play ever that either propelled the team to a win or pummeled them into a loss. In short – readers are looking for some action.

Another reason: You can write this lede on a story from a set of box scores. If you’re THERE, you have to be the eyes and ears for your readers and provide an experience … not just information. Don’t just provide information – tell a story.

How to fix a FITB lede: Stop writing them. 🙂 Or, if you must simply to get the writing juices flowing, go ahead and write it out. Then use it as your second or third sentence – not your first.

Your editor can help you determine when the FITB lede is best to use, but I’d love to see you challenge yourselves to NOT use them. Your readers – and your clips – will thank you.

Any questions? Suggestions for approaching ledes? Fire away.

-B

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