Saturday, March 29, 2008

Punchline first please

The way newspapers present information is the height of efficiency - if it's done right which is what I try to ensure in my job as a copy editor. Writers top load the story with the essentials - who, what, when, where, why and how - in order of diminishing importance. It's called the inverted pyramid style and it's often the first thing aspiring journalists learn in school. This inverted pyramid style allows the reader to quit reading at any point after even the first paragraph and know the story.

I've worked in journalism since 1994 and read a newspaper and scads of online news every day. Unfortunately for me, real live people don't tell stories this way, even though I often expect them to.

So when my husband announced during the nightly phone report that he found a tick on Dan, it seemed like an eternity before I got the whole story. Editors call this burying the lead. Here's how I would have preferred to have heard the story:

Dan Meehan's father found and removed a tick this evening that had not yet burrowed into the toddler's skin.

His father, Jim, noticed the tick while bathing him and quickly scooped the soaking wet toddler from the tub. He put Dan on the floor while he looked for the first aid kit. An exhausted Dan rolled onto his stomach which allowed Jim to brush the tick from behind Dan's ear.

The tick likely came in on the toddler's clothing.

Of course, Jim has often said that I should experience the story just as he did. He didn't know at the time that the tick had not burrowed, nor that getting it out would be easier than expected since Dan was exhausted. As you probably guessed, I hate suspense movies and I'm not fond of surprises.

Some would say I just have a short attention span, but I like to think that I'm just a good journalist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brice does the same thing to me you do to Jim--and ironically, the same way my dad does to my mom. Just the facts ma'am.