JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

My favorite lede

I graduated from college in 1994. Through the ensuing years, I’ve worked alongside some of the great writers of our era. Rick Reilly. Steve Rushin. Leigh Montville. Mark Kriegel. Jon Wertheim. On and on and on.

Yet as time has passed, I’ve clung to the belief that the best lede I’ve ever read—perhaps the best lede ever written—was done by a University of Delaware college student during my tenure as editor of our college paper, The Review.

I’ll never forget showing the lede to Catherine Mayhew, my first editor at The Tennessean, as I begged her to consider Greg Orlando for an internship in the summer of 1995. She read it, looked at me and said, “This is terrible. I have no idea what he’s talking about.” I disagreed then, and I disagree now. In newspaper, there’s this warped idea that the reader can’t be allowed to think too much; that if you don’t immediately get to the point, the customer will turn elsewhere. Like, say, TV.

Hogwash.

Great writing is inventive. It’s descriptive. It relies on myriad devices and follows few—if any—rules. That pretty much sums up why the following article, a review of the New Kids on the Block’s 1994 CD, Face The Music, maintains a prominent place in my journalistic scrapbook.

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The scan didn’t come out so great. So here’s Greg’s lede:

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By GREG ORLANDO/Copy Desk Chief

Somewhere in Asgard, Loki is screaming.

He has a right to, one supposes. The Aesir have bound him to a cavern, trapped forever like a fly in amber. From a hole in the ceiling, a steady stream of acid is dripping down, poised to strike the chaos bringer on his evil forehead.

His lovely wife Sigin is the only thing standing between the God of Mischief and mortal agony. She has a cup, you see, and catches the acid before it can hit.

Alas, the cup runneth over from time to time. When his wife goes to empty the container …

Somewhere in Delaware, I am screaming and there is nary a cup for miles.

The New Kids on The Block are back. Back after a three-year hiatus. Back to Face the Music.

A most heinous day of reckoning it is.