The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

A tell-tale lede?

Journalism looks like regular English, but is in fact Linear B. A news story cannot be read: it must be deciphered.

It's the pre-Lie of journalism, so fundamental it's seldom mentioned. Blair, Glass and Co are misdirection and displacement activity, mere sequelae of this basic deception.

Least of all can any clue be given on the back of the box. The freemasonry wouldn't allow it.

With this in mind, consider the latest [1] from the smart, cute, feisty and (I regret to say) married Dana Priest: under the hed Forgotten Briefings of August 2001, one finds her lede:
Sometimes the best stories in Washington are left unchecked.

This is, I believe, what is known in the trade as a delayed lede. It's the opposite of the sort of 4W lede one would expect in hard news story structured according to the standard inverted pyramid. It screams feature - not to mention poncified, arty-farty, and many worse terms of abuse which might be expected from an old-time slot - the chief copy-editor on a paper.

Use of a delayed lede is, in itself, a signal that Priest's is a piece with a deliberately affective slant [2]. The content of the lede fixes the slant as wry humour. It's placed on A12 - but I'm not sure one can fault the editorial function for that. It's possible to imagine the story being fronted - but almost certainly not with the lede, and the tone, of Priest's piece.

That's this layman's view, at least.

  1. About the utterly incredible story about George Tenet and his briefing - such as it was - of the Dear Leader during the runup to 9/11.

  2. All pieces have slants, conscious or unconscious, of course.


A tip for bloggers with RSS or Atom that supplies just the first graf as the feed for each post: delayed ledes are a killer for those scrolling down huge wodges of RSS material [1], especially where no heds are provided, or the heds are less than informative. A story may get - half a second, probably less - and, if I can't tell what it's about in that time, I whiz past.

The Plawg's feeds (RSS and Atom) are set to spill their guts - a different problem for some newsreaders, perhaps - so the problem is hopefully less acute.

(Since the blog eschews breaking news, most ledes are delayed. Not to mentioned poncified and arty-farty...)

  1. I use Amphetadesk, which was state of the art when Pontius was a pilot - the problem may well not apply to more sophisticated newsreaders.

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