Sunday, September 14, 2008

Catching the Reader's Attention: Short reports and Summary Leads

In All the News, By Thom Lieb, short reports and summary leads have one major characteristic in common, they both need to strike the readers interest immediately.

Short reports come in four different varieties: broadcast and web bulletins (explained below), email alerts (bulletins relayed via email), crawlers (the short news stories found on the bottom of the television screen and websites, and newspaper briefs (the print equivalent of crawlers that brings summaries of interesting stories). All four types get the message or the story out quickly.

Bulletins will usually run one or two sentences, it will carry with it a sense of immediacy. An example of this would be "Texas damage pushes Ravens game to November." Thoms Lieb says that as a writer as bulletin says, "We don't know much yet, but this seems important for you to know." This bulletin was put on the home page of the tells the reader an important fact before the story is even written. Over the weekend many bulletins were put out as a result of hurricane Ike and its effects on Texas.

A summary lead is the opening sentences of a news story and has an element of time and is written in the past tense. Summary Leads should be specific, they should avoid backing the writer into a corner, they should be concise and use active voice (the subject undertakes an action). An example of this was found on the homepage. "GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas - Rescue crews fanned out across the flooded Gulf Coast yesterday, searching for tens of thousands of Texans who ignored mandatory evacuation orders just before Hurricane Ike crashed ashore in the night with howling winds and a powerful tidal surge." "People didn't leave" by, David Zucchino where the summary lead was found. This summary lead is a perfect example of taking an active voice. It immediately caught my attention. He used powerful words and ensured that the subject was in action. It is also concise and lets the reader know exactly where the story is going from that point on and what information will be received from it.

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