A Great Lede Spoilt

The New Year is going to be much like the Old Year on the Pulp -- I'll be faithfully grousing about local newspaper content.

My first beef of 2009 is with the lead story in the local section of the Sun-Sentinel today. More specifically it is with the lede of that lead story.

Rafael A. Olmeda and Juan Ortega, or one of them anyway, had one of those rare ideas for a perfect lede paragraph. It was for a bank robbery story where the dye pack exploded but the bandit got away. Here's the lede:

DEERFIELD BEACH - The man who robbed a bank here Wednesday might have thought he was about to make a clean getaway. He was half right.

Or that's what the lede should have been. It's freaking beautiful, with a bit of Miller chop to it. There's an intrinsic question in it; nobody is going to stop reading at that point. But here's what actually ran in the newspaper:

DEERFIELD BEACH - The man who robbed the Washington Mutual branch at 1100 E. Hillsboro Blvd. at midday Wednesday may have thought he was about to make a clean getaway. He was half right.

Not only is the name of the bank there to break any clean flow, but also the address in all it's numeric and abbreviated clunkiness. The beauty is still there at the end, but it's like filet mignon drowned in cheap steak sauce. It's hard to get to and it doesn't taste as good as it should.

On top of that, two paragraphs down the article tells of a "tense hunt for the robbery." An embarrassing typo to say the least, though it's not as felonious as the lede.  

The blame for the crowded lede and the glaring mistake in the third graph doesn't fall with the reporters, even if they turned in the story exactly that way. They went beyond the call of duty with the gem in the lede. It's the editors' jobs to perfect the prose and clean up sloppy mistakes. That, after all, is the only reason they sit on their asses all day in the newsroom. It's their job to make sure busy details that get in the way of good writing are artfully peppered placed in the story rather than jamming up the top like calcium deposits in the bloodstream.

I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but newspapers set the tone for civilizations. A lack of narrative precision in them debases society itself. I've got a lot more to say about the fall of American culture, but I've got to get ready for 12 consecutive hours of beer-soaked football. Happy New Year.

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