[PDF Notes] How to write Combination Leads?

Previously we have cited several leads that are a combination of techniques. Lead techniques can often be combined for a solid article beginning. Here Brian Ettkin of the Scripps-Howard News Service uses a statement and then a comparison of Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns and Mark Price of the Cleveland Cavaliers in an article about the sports marketing attractions of various players. This article was run on the Scripps-Howard wires in March 1994.

Combinations of various types of leads are limited only by your imagination, and your knowledge and use of various leads.

There’s such a fine line in sports between marketable and dull.

Phoenix all-star point guard Kevin Johnson is flashy, exciting and plays for the Western Conference champion Suns. Advertisers find him marketable.

Cleveland all-star point guard Mark Price is plain, equally talented and plays for the Cavaliers. He is dull-advertisers often lose his phone number.

As the market for athletes who endorse everything from shoes to frozen pizzas has become saturated, companies aren’t shelling out their money as freely.

Here’s an unusual combination lead and story.

Ken Grissom of The Houston Post begins with a “you” lead, that leads to a “test” style. He had four questions in the article. One is reprinted here.

This article, under a headline “Patience key in trophy hunting,” ran in The Houston Post on December 9, 1993.

Take this quick test:

You are on a big South Texas ranch, sitting in a tripod stand on a narrow sendero, hunting for a big deer known to be in the area.

The buck and it is a monster, heavy and wide with 10 points-suddenly appears in the sendero about 250 yards away. It turns and weaves down the edge of the sendero, coming toward you-now in the open, now in the brush.

What do you do?

(1) Shoot.

(2) Don’t shoot.

The correct answer is doing shoot. Why risk a moving shot at 200-plus yards when the animal is still coming toward you?

Using the “you” of the reader and the “I” of the writer can be done. Here Vin T. Sparano of the Gannett News Service uses both in an article about hunting and fishing trips. This was run early in December 1993.

Sportsmen can spend months, even years, planning that great hunting or fishing trip, but everything still can go wrong and destroy a journey.

Unless you are an experienced traveler, you may not be aware of the problems that can ruin your trip. If you’re a hunter or fisherman, there are some precautions to consider.

Several years ago, I decided that I would no longer travel with sporting arms. It was just too much trouble at most airports.

I would carefully pack my shotgun or rifle and tape all hinges and latches of the case with duct tape to protect them from the usual battering inflicted by baggage handlers. To repeat, combinations of lead types are limited solely by the writer’s imagination:

• A quotation from an athlete, player or coach might be followed by a description of that person.

• An anecdote about a person might be followed by a topical question at the end of the lead: “Do you think he did the right thing in that circumstance?”

• A statement. “It was the highest scoring football game ever played (in the state of . . .)” might easily be fol­lowed by contrasting quotations from, or contrasting an­ecdotes about, the winning and losing coaches.

• A false lead (perhaps about a Civil War battle re-enactment) might be followed by a quotation from a par­ticipant in that battle re-enactment.

A reminder: All leads must come to an obvious conclusion, before the writer (and eventually the reader) begins the body of the article.

In Modern Sports writing (1969), Louis I. Gelfand and Harry E. Heath Jr. wrote:

Regardless of the type of story being written, however, the sportswriter should examine his notes carefully, select his lead elements, and make a mental outline of the story before proceeding. The beginner will find it helpful to number the facts in his notes in the order of their importance.

The veteran automatically turns over lead possibilities in his mind as the game is played. In many cases he has mentally concocted a half-dozen leads before the contest has ended. This procedure is second nature with him; indeed, he may be entirely unaware of it.

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