The poetry of journalism

This is not a dek.

My short article wireframe poetry for writing a piece of journalism:

Hed, Dek, Lede.
Graf Graf Graf 

The words are not misspelled either. That really is ink-stained wretchedness.

I teach this “poem” to anyone looking to write blog posts or engage in journalism. Articles and posts longer or more complicated than this don’t get read.

Copy it, frame it, post it on a wall, live it. Make your stories conform.

Hed: Headline, write this last.

Dek: That little piece of fluff that Google likes on the link, right under the hed. This is your tease pitch. Write it after everything else has been written. If you have an editor, copyeditor, best friend, loyal dog, it’s best if they read your piece without you in the room and write the dek in their own words. Do not exceed 160 characters or your story is dead.

Lede: First “graf” or paragraph of the story. Get your 5Ws in there and get them hitting hard. You don’t want anyone leaving your lede without knowing what the hell you are talking about. Ironically, about 2/3rds of your readers will click off after your lede, either confused or smug with the false knowledge of knowing what you are writing.

Graf: A paragraph that expands on the lede and leads to the kicker. You get three hits in any one story; make them count. Graf, Graf, Graf. Say it fast and hard. Graf! Graf! Graf! Write the same way. Dig in and don’t let up.

Kicker: Write this first. Write the grafs, then make sure you pull up on the throttle. Link back the first sentence in the kicker to the last sentence in the lede. If you can't, keeping working the story until you can.

Tight, tight, tight. Then tighten it even more. Question every adverb, interrogate every adjective. Seriously, do you really need to introduce a graf with a conjunction? Knock that sh*t off.

Now shut off the screen you are staring at and go do something worth writing about.

My next wireframe story will be a short article on how to play the harmonica. I’m not kidding, I can teach anyone the harmonica in one tweet, in one poem.