What is a lede?

Newspaper-headline

The usage and even the very existence of the word “lede” as defined below is a highly debated topic. In some circles, this particular spelling even qualifies as the kind of four-letter word your mother warned you not to use in polite company.


 

lede-definition-alt2.jpg


 

A “lead” in the newspaper journalism sense is the first part of a news story — sometimes the first sentence — intended to entice the reader to keep reading.

But the alternative spelling, one agitated publisher claims, was created by print media romantics longing for an age they were born too late to have experienced. I picture a modern Miniver Cheevy with a pencil behind his ear and a notepad protruding from his pocket.


 

“…there is no historic basis for the spelling of a lead as “lede.” “Lede” is an invention of linotype romanticists, not something used in newsrooms of the linotype era. It’s really emblematic of today’s print nostalgia, too — like Desi and Lucy sleeping in separate beds — a longing for an America that never was, or wasn’t quite what you thought it was.”

Lead vs. Lede | howardowens.com


 

Regardless of its history — or lack thereof — it has many redeeming qualities. Among them, it’s unique and it’s easy to spell, so it’s perfect for creating a concise URL. It’s also emblematic of something I myself am guilty of romanticizing.

You see, I fell in love with visual media because of newspapers and print photojournalism. I studied the photos and got hooked by the ledes, and I desperately wanted to be a part of that world. Over time, the evolution of my career gave way to video journalism and production.


Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Miniver Cheevy | by Edward Arlington Robinson

Romanticizing the lede is where I got started, and Lede Photo is my way of preserving that romanticism. So even if it’s not alright with Howard Owens, I think I’ll keep on drinking.

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James McConatha