When to use a straight news lede

Sad story today. I was reading The Associated Press’ accounts of a shooting in Maine where five people — including three children between ages 4 and 12 — were found shot to death inside an apartment.

The details are sorrowful, but the news is blunt. I wanted to share because I found it to be one of many great examples in journalism that remind us not to feel the need to build momentum or cast an anecdotal lede with something like this.

Some news just needs to be told. The article begins:

SACO, Maine (AP) — A family of five, including three children ranging in age from 4 to 12 years old, were found shot to death Sunday inside a southern Maine apartment, authorities said.

Straight and to the point. With something as tragic, anything other than stating what happened would be burying the facts that so desperately need to come first.

But the reporter doesn’t forget to add a human element, either. The story goes on to say:

Neighbors Heather and Dellas Mason stopped to place flowers on the ground outside the apartment building, which was surrounded by crime scene tape. Heather Mason said she used to baby-sit the children.

Now a picture is painted, and the types of details unfold that those not reporting on scene would have missed out on. According to reports, authorities haven’t yet classified this as a murder-suicide scenario and autopsies are scheduled for Monday.

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