Great introduction sentence and structure to The Guardian article on the Glasgow pub story today on the paper edition on page 1. Can’t find it online, which is a pity.
It was on the front page, written by Lexi Topping. It is a narrative intro:
“Saverio Petri, one of the owners of the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow, wasn’t meant to be in the pub on Friday. But a band he liked were playing that night and, knowing the pub would be busy, he decided to help out. Which is why he was behind the bar when the police helicopter plunged through the roof of the building. Its rotor blade missing him by half a metre.”
A human dimension
This is a narrative opening to writing: it plunges into the details of the story, already known, and gives it a human dimension. See how she gets the reference to the bigger story in at the top. And then punches home the close shave Petri had at the end of the intro paragraph?
Wicker reporting: Topping giving human interest
Compare this with the story I reviewed last week by Tom Wicker of the Kennedy killing which you can access though the blog roll:
“Dallas, Nov 22 – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today.”
Wicker got the classic structure: Lexi got the guts
He’s got all the who, where, what questions answered. Lexi has gone for the human angle because we know the story already. She asked if Petri would talk through various media and did not expect a reply. But on Sunday he answered her calls and there’s the story.
Lessons to be learned here:
- When a story is running look for a personal angle; and
- Make that call: somebody may come back and give you just the story you want.
Use the person for the story: look for the anecdote
I remember writing a series of stories about start ups in the UK IT sector for Computing. How dull could that be? Geeks mouthing on. But I interviewed a man with an Asian name and asked how it was that he was here. He told me that his mother put him on a boat from Vietnam with $10 and said “goodbuy” hoping he would survive after the Communist victory. The boat was ambushed by pirates who stole their water. But he survived and was adopted by a family in Canada. Then came to the UK. Did I have my intro!
So look for the story in the lives of people and you can tell an interesting tale. As long as it means something to the overall story, which the Lexi’s story in The Guardian does.