Slugs Lede 3-1

After class on on Tuesday, I had an epiphany.

We had each submitted a delayed lede for a story covering Terry Hazen’s talk about bioremediation in the Gulf of Mexico. In class, Ken projected them all on the board, and critiques them one by one. I has struggled with my lede for a simple reason: it was the worst lede ever. I kept trying to rewrite it, tweak it, reverse it, sharpen it, squeeze it, something. But it started stupid and stayed that way.

In class, I noticed that no one else approached the lede the same way I did. I had a choice of 10 completely different ledes up there on the board. I could pick my favorite and reject the rest. How I wished I could have done that for the assignment!

So, for our next assignment, I did. Ten was ambitious, so I decided on three. I came up with three completely different ideas for my lede, and turned my favorite one into an actual sentence. Now I know it’s not the worst lede ever because I’ve got two worse ones right in front of me. It may not be great, but, baby steps. I suddenly had control of the lede instead of the other way around.

So now, for ever more (or till I find a better strategy), I shall think of three ledes for every one I have to write.


About szubryd

I come alive when I talk about science. Whether I'm asking about marine ecology or writing about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, I light up. I've found myself vehemently defending evolutionary theory from inside a bathroom stall, sitting at a bar holding the interest of self-proclaimed potheads with an explanation of endogenous cannabanoid receptors, and discussing the causes of eutrophication in streams on a second date (he was a keeper, by the way). It took an astute college mentor and the challenge of reporting about bisphenol A to point me toward science writing as a career. I had a hard time believing I could make a living doing something so interesting, so much more rewarding than listening to marketers pitch the environmental benefits of their latest drain cleaner—the one with "Toxic" on the label. What could be better?
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3 Responses to Slugs Lede 3-1

  1. SandeepR says:

    I think coming up with multiple ledes is a really good idea.

    In fact, during my internship one of the editors at Popular Science made me write 10 completely different ledes for a news story I was writing.

    Till then, my ledes were generally either not interesting enough or too predictable for the magazine. (They actually banned any ‘Here’s the problem, this is how this invention/research will fix it’ ledes, since those had become so common in their news section.)

    Sure enough, one of the 10 I submitted (I think it might have been the 8th…) was actually chosen for the final article.

    Of course, it was hard and time-consuming to come up with 10 original ledes, and I doubt we’ll always have the time to do that.

    But maybe I can also start with three…

  2. danielleventon says:

    I love your lede in the PopSci article!

    I’m having a rough time finding ledes I’m happy with too. I think your suggestion of looking for multiple good ones — instead of the single, glowing ideal — is excellent. Three ledes all around!

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