It’s uncanny, as the following stories were published in my favorite newspaper:
The first, titled “How social is too social?,” was for the Perspective section of BusinessMirror. The second, titled “Separate but equal?” was published in the Sports section and written by Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News.
Both were published March 8, 2010.
Here are the ledes:
By David Armano: “Imagine walking up to an ATM, inserting your card and checking your balance. As you do this, a small crowd of people forms around you, peering over your shoulder. Some are friends, some family, some casual acquaintances—some you don’t even know. Uncomfortable situation? Absolutely.” (http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22674:how-social-is-too-social&catid=34:perspective&Itemid=62Imagine)
By Fernandez, with a New York dateline: “Imagine you are the owner of the Hope Diamond or some similarly large, one-of-a-kind gem. Now, imagine that circumstances dictate that you turn that stone over to a diamond-cutter who splits it into two smaller, still-glittering but undeniably less valuable pieces.” (http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22692:separate-but-equal&catid=31:sports&Itemid=65)
I don’t know if the two writers know each other and I guess it would be a stretch to say they agreed to use the word “Imagine” as their first word for their respective lede.
Closer to home, we have the following stories, also published in the same day and from one news agency (Inquirer.net) via GoogleNews (http://news.google.com.ph/nwshp?hl=en&tab=wn), with the same ledes that took off from the headline:
“Aquino scores removal of parents' posters along Manila road” This was the reaction by Liberal Party standard bearer and Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to government moves to remove banners that had pictures of his parents along Roxas Boulevard in Manila because these supposedly helped his campaign.
“Peace possible via interfaith dialogue” This was the message of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to more than 120 foreign delegates from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) gathered in Manila for the Special NAM Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and ...Either the writer or the editor in each of the story lacked the ability to “imagine” in crafting the first lines.
The importance of first lines is emphasized by Dublin, Ireland novelist Gemma O'Connor in her first book, “First Lines,” a copy of which goes for P10 at the previously-owned book section of National Bookstore Panay branch.
The opening lines, she wrote, “are often what make [the constant reader] read on or slip the volume back on the shelf.”
In my experience as a journalist, the first line, the lede or the first graf, is the kicker. It should grab the reader’s attention and lead him or her to the next paragraphs.
The first line should make a Filipino worker in Rome sit up and almost spill his cup of coffee or forget all about it, rapt at a story written by someone thousands of miles away.
But crafting the first line’s not an easy task.
I squirm on my seat, nib on a pen’s end, shuffle papers on my desk, sometimes for hours, just to get the words for the first line out.
The frightening thing for me is a blank page staring at me, hauntingly taunting, daringly daunting.
The second scariest thing is thinking I’m letting down the reader with a half-assed first line; writing just so to get it done and over with.
Writing the first line is an art that requires passion and high regard both for the written word and the reader.
Unfortunately, I may not have any of these.
What I may have is the patience to acquire even one element when tapping on the keyboard for the first line.