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Nov 11 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Ledes, “best of” and angles

Here are some highlights from this week’s mailbag at the Bleacher Report Sports Writing Internship program.

Being in many journalism classes right now, I feel like writing a lede for this website, not to mention a slideshow, is much different. It’s something I’m trying to adjust to …

Online writing is different from print journalism. Web readers have shorter attention spans. Therefore, if your opening paragraph is a whole lot of throat clearing and backing into the subject instead of what they’re looking for, they’ll move on to another article quickly. An article’s title should grab a reader’s attention, and the first paragraph convinces him or her to stay and keep reading. Examine the first few words of your lede. Are they strong? Do they get to the point immediately? Can you open with key words that immediately identify what the story is about?

How should I introduce a “best of” rankings-style slideshow?

You don’t have to keep your ending a mystery—make the lede about the piece, i.e., a slideshow titled “Best Linebackers of All Time” isn’t just about the No. 1 guy in the list. It’s OK if you give him away in your intro. Readers aren’t clicking to find out who No. 1 is.

Why do my B/R editors push so hard for “forward thinking” angles? i.e. Why am I being discouraged from writing game recaps?

B/R specializes in forward thinking content. When people want recaps, they’ve probably already gone to ESPN, CBS Sports, etc. By the time they get to B/R, readers are saying “what’s next?” Articles that look to the past have a limited shelf-date, while forward looking stuff often can live even past the actual event (as readers will compare it to what ACTUALLY happened).

Don’t Forget:

- Avoid words or phrases indicating a specific date, as this will almost immediately make your piece out of date. The tricky thing with web writing is that readers always want the most recent info possible. Advertising a specific day of publishing can be a turnoff to readers.

- The quickest way to doom an article? Leave a typo in the headline or first few paragraphs.

- If you’re ever confused on the proper way to capitalize, italicize or hyphenate a phrase that isn’t present in our Stylebook, Google it. If you find a respected publication or website (ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times, etc.), use the construction they employ.

- When you end your introduction slide with something like, “and now, let’s get on to the slideshow” or  ”without further ado, let’s get to the list,” this sentence serves no purpose other than to say, “I just wasted your time for four paragraphs, and now I’ll stop.” To avoid giving that impression, you need to let the “Next Slide” button act as a transition, or you need to throw in an actual transition statement with a PURPOSE.

Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Internship Program Feedback Editor. Each week (along with contributor Greg Pearl) he includes some hints, tips and answers in an email to those participating in the B/R Sports Writing Internship, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.

  • Ashley Anderson

    A very informative piece here Joel, thank you for all the tips. Definitely something that I will work on and take on board.

  • Ken Kraetzer

    Yes have to work on forward thinking pieces. Our photo summaries of games sometime prove popular.

  • John

    Very informative blog, particularly the parts comparing web writing to print journalism.