Posted by: Donna
Howard Fischer is a journalistic institution in Arizona. He’s the Chief Correspondent for Capitol Media Services, which is basically one Howard Fischer not being here for your bullshit.
I’ve run into Howie in his irascible corporeal form time or two, including when we were on a TV panel together back in 2010, in which I sparred with him and the other dude (don’t remember which dude but I’m generally on with two dudes when appearing on TV) over private prisons. Post-taping, as we undid our microphones, we panelists chatted about political happenings of the time which I don’t remember. I do recall Howie walking away from the Channel 12 studio observing how Terry Goddard needed to “grow a pair of balls!” I wrote him off for a while after that, feeling he was the usual Arizona media crank who thinks Democrats here are irrelevant yet still scorns Democrats for not saving the state from Republicans.
In the years since, I’ve grown to respect the guy and find myself relying on his reporting more than any other to keep up with what is happening at the state government. And in two recent instances, Fischer has demonstrated how to construct a proper lede. Lede is a fancy inside baseball press term meaning the statement, usually at the beginning of a story, that tells you what it’s about and (ideally) makes you want to read the whole thing. Ledes often accompany headlines (which we now know are very important), particularly on social media posts linking articles (oftentimes a tweet or Facebook blurb promoting an article is a lede). In many cases headlines and ledes are the only things busy readers scan before moving on to something else. So it’s important to be concise and correct with your lede.
Watch and learn from Howie Fischer how a lede should be done:
PHOENIX — Rejecting concerns of doctors, a House panel voted 6-3 along party lines to require them to do everything possible to keep severely premature babies alive no matter the chances of survival.
I do have issues with the AZ Daily Star‘s headline of the piece, which puts an undeserved positive spin on motivations of AZ House Republicans, but it’s likely the headline wasn’t chosen by Fischer*. Look at that lede, though. He is not here for Cathi Herrod’s pie-eyed bullshit and there’s none of the usual “abortion opponents and lawmakers say this about the bill but doctors and pro-choice advocates say that” you see so often in coverage of anti-choice bills.
Nope. Howie Fischer is not an opinion writer but he doesn’t buy that opinions of the shape of the earth differ either. His article opens with a straightforward statement that tells the reader three important things: doctors are being overridden, the vote was party line (Republicans), and health care providers will be forced to perform drastic medical interventions on infants who cannot survive. So whatever percentage of readers (and you better believe it is high) who don’t read beyond that come away with a basic grasp of this legislation. Well done!
Here’s the second instance of high quality lede writing by Fischer:
PHOENIX — Saying it would send the wrong message, Republican lawmakers voted Wednesday to kill legislation that would simply require them to review the $12 billion a year the state could potentially collect in sales taxes if all exemptions and exclusions were eliminated.
Here’s what you know if you don’t read beyond the headline (good this time) and the lede: Republicans don’t want to review tax breaks that cost the state $12B annually and Republicans are cowardly liars. Fischer adeptly flips the Republicans’ own framing (“send the wrong message”) against them and allows the word “simply” to do a lot of lifting. And he’s not editorializing on the merits of those tax breaks. He’s letting the reader know he’s not here for Republicans’ bullshit on why they killed that bill.
Read both the articles fully for the further details Fischer provides but do take the time to appreciate good lede construction and a reporter placing not being here for bullshit over a futile quest to appear “balanced”.
You should follow him on Twitter too.
*Arizona Capitol Times went with a better headline but it might be behind a paywall for some.
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