Burying the lead!

As an English teacher, text types are a common focus of some lessons. A popular one is the news report. It’s manageable, it’s easy to break down, and it is a fun way for students to reinterpret the content of novels or films.

One of the more difficult things to teach students who don’t have regular exposure to print news is the concept of burying the lead. A news report should usually start with the most pertinent event being described in the first sentence, and burying the lead is when this sentence is somewhere further down the article than the first sentence.

For example, compare the difference between these two opening paragraphs.

Example one: At least 170 people are confirmed dead after a plane crashed into a hotel night club on New Year’s Eve. All 125 passengers on the plane were killed, as well as at least 45 night club patrons and staff.

Example two: A local bar was closed on Saturday after several bar staff suffered fatal injuries as a result of the passenger plane that crashed into the building shortly before midnight on January 31. the 125 passengers aboard the plane were also killed.

It may seem obvious, but some students have trouble evaluating the most important information in a story, or at least figuring out which piece of information might be the most relevant to the widest section of the audience. Generally speaking, 170 dead trumps a bar closure.

Anyway, I bring this up in response tothis blog post. *

Simply read the first paragraph, and you’ll see why I don’t feel so bad about year 8 students not fully grasping this concept when it seems that people publishing reports on America’s NBC sports can’t figure it out either. 


* I want to acknowledge at this time that I recognise the link is to a blog and not a ‘news’ report. But seriously… does that first sentence really need to be reported anywhere in the story? I think it’s safe to assume that the poor guy was carried off the court.


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