So UP has won, FEU moved up a notch, and NU finally proved itself worthy of Henry Sy’s money. Whichever school we’re from I’m sure we all got a kick from watching this year’s UAAP Cheerdance Competition. And for those who weren’t able to watch it, live or on TV, I’m sure they’ve all got friends who will tell them—in their own hyperventilated words—what happened.
That’s exactly what the news usually tries to do, minus the biases and the school-bashing. Of course the news can only tell you so much, but that is its noble call—to show, more than tell, beyond the limitation of words.
If you didn’t watch the cheerdance competition and only got to scan the news, which of the articles do you think you would read and why? I surveyed a few news organizations and took note how their lead (which, for the non-journalism people, is the first sentence or paragraph of a news article) was written. Let’s see which ones are effective!
“The University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad bagged its third-straight University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Cheerdance Competition crown on Saturday at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena.”
-This is the safest way to do it. Provides a little bit of background by saying it’s UP’s third win in a row.
“The University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad won the Samsung UAAP Cheerdance Competition for the 3rd straight year.”
-It’s from the host TV network, so notice how the main sponsor had to be mentioned in the lead. News needs advertisers, too!
“The University of the Philippines Pep Squad continued its mastery of UAAP Cheerdance, winning its third straight title and eighth overall in the competition Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.”
-For some reason I was expecting a lot more from InterAksyon, maybe because they’ve been so visible doing all these partnerships with student organizations. And do you really continue your “mastery” of a competition? Perhaps “dominance” is a better word. But this provides a little more background by saying it’s UP’s eighth title in history.
“It was all business for UP Pep.”
–This one works better than most because it’s a soft lead, meaning it doesn’t give the details right away, and makes you wonder why could it possibly be “all business” for the winning team. It also allowed the writer to develop the story along that line, that the UP Pep Squad has always been good.
“University of the Philippines turned from blondes to baldies but its grace and artistry continued to awe and dazzle a sell-out crowd to complete a three-peat in the Samsung UAAP Cheerdance Competition yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.”
-It’s a descriptive lead. I don’t quite get the “but,” as if being bald, in the context of the cheerdance competition, couldn’t possibly be graceful and artistic. The mere fact that it raises this much issue in language for me makes it a bad lead.
“Even a major error in its final stunt couldn’t stop the University of the Philippines pep squad from reigning in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition, becoming champions for the third straight year.”
-This, I think, is the best. Because it immediately lays out the caveat in UP’s victory this year—that one slip at the end of their routine. You wouldn’t know this unless you’ve seen the competition yourself, and its mention makes you hungry for more details.
So here ends my very nerdy blogpost about leads. If anything, I hope this makes my journalism professors proud. And please don’t take my judgment as holding with the news organization, or the journalist, as well. Any journalism major will tell you just how difficult it is to write the lead. And you can just imagine, they had to send the story as soon as the winners were announced. While the confetti were falling, they were busy wracking their heads for the perfect lead!