Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart...

My friend the Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist David Kennerly shared  a recent news story in a Facebook comment today:

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio (Aug. 20) -- A bear fatally mauled its caretaker during a feeding on property holding dozens of other exotic pets owned by a man who drew the wrath of activists—and lost his license to exhibit —after offering people the chance to wrestle bears at a Cleveland expo. 

Is it the worst news story lead ever written? It's in the running, for sure. David (left) himself suggested that the writer "bear-ied" the lead. But seriously: As an editor, what do you do with a lead that wanders over so much ground? You can write too tight, for goodness sake.  I read it and felt like I was on the most perplexing freeway on-ramp in Los Angeles.

How would a great newspaperman rewrite that lead? The journalist Joe Galloway kindly offered an alternative lead as a comment to Kennerly's post...and remember, this comes from a man who covered the Vietnam War and later wrote the book We Were Soldiers Once, and Young, about the1965 battle of Ia Drang in the central highlands (it was turned into a Mel Gibson movie, when Mel Gibson movies were still pretty good).  Galloway also covered the India-Pakistan war of 1971 and  became a correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, so he knows what he's doing. Here's his version of the bear story:

 Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eats you. Friday it was the bear's turn...

 All you journalists and writers out there...Galloway has just given you a short master class.


  1. Glad to see that age and guile had conquered yet again.

  2. I looked at Joe's lead and told an old friend that what he did in that sentence was better than anything I did in 30 years as an editor!