Writing Cliche No. 1

New York Times, April 26, 2005
BOCAS DEL TORO, Panama – Dr. Jeremy Jackson is in an open boat, speeding across the waters of Laguna de Chiriquí, on the Caribbean coast of Panama. His graying red pony tail is frizzing and flapping in the wind, and he is gesticulating wildly, waving his long arms, his lanky frame twisted toward his fellow passengers.

Nothing–and everything–is wrong with this lede. If it had never been done before, it would be fine. The problem is that the anecdotal lede in present tense is a formula that has been done to death. In some newspapers, half the Page 1 stories start in exactly this way. I wish line editors would ban this old chestnut for about 10 years, just to give it a well-earned rest.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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