there you are

Calling the beginning of a story a ‘lede’ is just another form of nostalgia.

On Sunday September 18th, Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU sent out a tweet marking a debate about why journalists use ‘lede’ to describe the start of a story.

In an article written by Steve Myers on the Poynter site, gives some insight as to why this “journo jargon” is still used and provokes the question, is ‘lede’ still relevant today?

The debate started when Rosen tweeted, “At my Tumblr… A little item about the sentence that some journalists have called “the best lede ever http://bit.ly/nHJ5sl. In response to this, Steve Buttry, the Director of Community Engagement & Social Media at Journal Register Co., tweeted: And 40 years after lead (the metal) became irrelevant to journos, why do we still spell the first paragraph “lede”? :).

This sparked a 6 hour long debate, all documented on Chris L.Kellers blog, on how journalists agreed to disagree about the usage of the word.

Howard Owens, who is said to have collected hundreds of journalism books noted that the word “lede” was invented  to distinguish between “lead,” defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “[a] strip of metal separating lines of type,” used in a linotype machine. Therefore, ‘lede’ wasn’t used in newsrooms until the 1980’s.

Owens accelerated the debate when he tweeted, “I’m no enemy of romanticism and nostalgia in the news game. I just believe in historical accuracy.”

 In response, Chris L. Keller tweeted, “Love it. Thinking now that “lede” & “–30–” et al are not only romantic fiction but forms of shibboleth in way of innovation.”


I think this sparks an interesting question for journalism students around the country where ‘lede’ is taught in most, if not all, of their first journalism classes. Does our love for a word that has been engrained in journalism culture really have room for new developments in our field?

With new technology sprouting as fast as you can blink, journalism students and professionals are always looking for new and improved ways to spread the news. I think that journalists should recognize the past but also understand that this word was purely adopted because as Rosen said:  ….Uh, because journalists hate jargon? :-).

Therefore, I don’t think that ‘lede’ has anymore legroom in the world of journalism. It’s old, out dated and doesn’t allow space in the hearts of journalists to adopt the budding future of technology.

Granted, Twitter has become a huge platform for journalists but I doubt we’ll ever see “Retweet” in a journalism textbook anytime soon. I think it’s fair to say that adapting to what’s new is always in a true journalists’ blood.

Being revolutionaries and voices of change is what I like to think the entire profession is based on. But it’s long overdue to decide if the use of this tiny four letter word is stunting the growth of our forever growing field.

food for thought journos.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: