Reading the front page of the NYT this morning I realized that NONE of the news stories had what we were all taught would be a traditional “news lede.” They all kick off like feature stories; the news is often in a third or later paragraph, sometimes merely inferred. I went back to the Friday and Saturday front pages — one story on Friday and two on Saturday have classic news ledes — but most, again, are feature-style news reports. The WSJ uses proper ledes on the front page, except for what are legit features.
I’ve sensed this for a while at the Times, but hadn’t considered that it was a wholesale shift until this morning’s page 1. Is the Times abandoning the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How lede? I have to go back and re-examine the inside stories.
A quick Google search suggests j-schools are still defining ledes as answering those key questions, usually in the first paragraph and typically in one sentence. Just like the old days.
Is this a positive change?
One thought on “Dear NYT: What Happened to the 5 Ws and How?”
No. While there is much to be said about this, my quick, primary point is that if a reader has to search for the lede…or if the writer or editor intentionally buries the lede (sometimes in a continuation page far from the top of the story)…the story is, or approaches being, dishonest. I say this knowing that the traditional inverted pyramid and WWWWH lede were constraining and often difficult (sometimes impossible) for writers. But they served more purposes than helping lazy or time-limited readers — they forced journalists and editors to communicate clearly the stories they told and gave readers more information and control.