Monday, December 22, 2008

A little surprise to lead you in

Read the lead on this Washington Post story (link below) on the Illinois political corruption probe.

I'm sure the writers could have described the woman in many ways -- foremost among them, as a hospital CEO, because after all that's what she does and what's relevant to the story.

But they surprised us by choosing to describe her as a human being, not as what she is in the workplace. That description, paired with what's going on in the story, really works to draw you in.

Sometimes we tend to be so serious in news stories that we can forget the people involved are human beings -- and that their humanity only adds to the story. You have to do that kind of characterization carefully, of course, or your story could come off as a wrestling match between a feature and a news story. But done well, it can work.

That said, the other thing about this kind of lead is you'd like to see the woman's human side developed in the story in order to justify its mention in the lead. The Post writers didn't really do that, so you could make an argument that they should have just let her be a CEO in the lead.

Any thoughts?

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