In his critique for the Washington Post’s internal board, Marc Fisher just comes right out and say sit:
Too many of our ledes bite.
More to the point, they don’t bite, or grab, or captivate in any way. They meander. They fail to select. They strain to tell you what happened, why, what it means, and how we know, all in a stupefying 40, 50, even 60 words.
Gene Weingarten agrees:
Fisher is so right. When I was a lad in the 1970s working in a lousy city at a terrible paper peopled with incompetents, it was common to hear this compliment in the newsroom: “Great lede!” It’s not that the ledes were great, it’s that people at least paid attention to them, and strove to make them good. When was the last time you heard “Great lede!” in our newsroom? It’s like ledes no longer matter.
And Len Downie, making a rare appearance on their internal board, basically agrees:
For the record, I agree with most of what Fisher said about shorter ledes. And I had nothing to do with what was in the long ledes that he cited; no conversations about what they should say whatsoever.