Author Archives: Emily

Lynching of Innocent Men

Wells’s style is laced with bias and emotional language. It also seems to be un-exaggerated and is filled with pertinent detail and substance.

By giving examples of cases where there was a clear miscarriage of justice, Wells may have been appealing not just to those who already had some inkling of support for the black community, but also to those who might have carried a certain measure of prejudice but had a fondness for justice and truth. The accounts themselves are engaging and provoke a share of moral outrage in the reader, or should, so it is also somewhat disappointing when the more emotional language comes into play. It seems unnecessary.

The first line gives away the rest of the article, and while punchy it might alienate readers who are not already sympathetic to the issue. Because it tells the intent of the piece before giving evidence, those who disagree with the intent could easily stop and turn to something else.

Given the context of the larger work from which the piece is excerpted, it would of course also be reasonable to assume that a person, having already undertaken the task of reading an “exhaustive survey of lynching,” would not throw their book down in anger over such a statement of purpose.

Still, it is irksome to read a few paragraphs of unaffected prose and then to find that the next one is full of tales of “human ferocity. . .not yet sated” and spirited declarations of the innocence of various parties.

Taking the Bait

“Cell phones and pagers, airplane engines, a door from a police squad car, a mother’s wallet and credit cards. Those items survived when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City during the September 11 attacks” (read the full article here:

There’s a short list of items presented without context. Then, the context: a tragedy, constantly remembered and long past.

The lede could be for any number of articles concerning the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. This particular article concerns a new exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., of items once held in storage by the FBI as evidence for terror trials.

It’s an interesting article, but it’s also a human-interest piece more than anything else; there are descriptions of a few of the items on display, and that all-important context for each, but nothing is really news to someone who has been alive these last ten years. The quiet but affecting lede suggests the tone of the rest of the article, with its appeals to emotion and memory in the form of haunting images and recollections.

I would call it a successful lede: it gives a taste of the rest of the article, but without revealing the exact topic. If the title of the article had not been known to me, I would have clicked the lede because it sounded intriguing and I would have wanted to know what the rest of the article said.

So in this case, the fact that the lede itself is somewhat generic works for the better. By teasing the reader without revealing the specific subject of the article, it preys on natural human curiosity to draw people in.