Saturday, May 28, 2011

From the Division of Bad Ledes: The Bin Laden file

Actually, we're not going to discuss leads on Osama bin Laden stories here today. We're going to discuss when he should be left out of the discussion.

This one, sent in by an alert student, comes from a recent edition of the Myrtle Beach Sun News. Oh, those wacky, clever folks on the sports desk:

Perhaps Osama bin Laden should have tried hiding in the Myrtle Beach High's soccer goal, because no one has been able to find the back of the Seahawks' net in weeks.

Myrtle Beach scored a 3-0 victory over visiting Bluffton in Thursday night's second round of the Boys' Class AAA playoffs. ...

Note to the copy desk: Topical is good. Current is good. Forcing it is not good. Trivializing things and bad taste are especially not good.

Next time, take a deep breath and step back from the lede. Take a jog around the desk once or twice. Clear your head. Then come back and have another look.

Ledes are like headines. You probably should reject the first one that comes into your mind because many others will have thought about it, making it not so clever after all. Second, if you have to reach far afield (or a-goal, in this case) to make the connection, that's a red flag for sure.

The temptation to "bin Laden" everything is great - he was killed and there seems to be great joy among the land. Let those words and images speak for themselves and keep the references in that context or on the late-night comedy hours. Otherwise, keep these where the Jimmy Hoffa ledes should also be kept - buried.

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