I fix their ledes but I don’t lay on their beds

The bears always think their ledes are just right.

The bears always think their ledes are just right.

By Ren LaForme

At The Spectrum, I pretty much fall into the role of Goldilocks – and the articles that make it to my desk are porridge.

As one of the final editors to see the stories before they go to print, I have the opportunity to alter them just about any way that I want. And while I’ve been instructed to “leave the writer’s voice intact,” I am notorious for changing people’s ledes.

Some of them are far too boring. Some of them are much too ridiculous. Sometimes, we even get a lede that doesn’t make sense. We once received a story about the differences between tap water and bottled water. The lede was as follows: Water. It is the thing that is essential for all humans to live.

Obviously, we didn’t let that get to print.

My job as senior managing editor is to decide whether the porridge is too hot, too cold or just right – and sometimes it’s hard.

On occasion, the bears come home and get mad when they realize I messed with their porridge, but it’s generally in the best interest of the paper.

Between our weekly showdowns with the Student Association, squabbles with the Department of English over course credit and insane former editor in chiefs trying to regain control of the paper, it is amazing that we have enough time to even put a paper together.

So when it’s midnight and I’m weary and I’m trying to decide if a lede is good enough, I tend to scrap the whole thing and craft a new lead from nothing – rather than trying to salvage a gem out of junk.

After all, the lede just might be the most important part of the story. Is it right for me to change them?


2 responses to “I fix their ledes but I don’t lay on their beds

  1. Ren,

    Ha! This was fun to read, although I admit, at the start I was a little wary of the Goldilocks comparison. But you made it work without going overboard, which is often tough to pull off. Kudos.

    Content: 4 Great. Editing is a fine art. It requires restraint and patience. It does wonders for your writing though. My advice is to try to “listen” for a writer’s voice. Understand the cadences and rhythms of their sentences. Think about what we talked about last week — watch HOW they use parts of speech to construct sentences. Try not to change the rhythms, just the grammar, words, whatever needs fixing.

    I know some good books, if you are interested.

    I understand the impulse to bulldoze. I have it all the time.

    Links: 3 Fun. Good that you included the Poynter tips, but don’t use Poynter again (this is the second time, no?) There are lots of other writing sites out there.
    Grammar: 3

  2. Ren, you are wonderful.
    I miss staring at computer screens with you scratching our heads at some of the most ridiculous sentences ever constructed.
    ps–did u like WBFO??

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