Associated Press Decides to Bury the Lede

All good things, they say, must come to an end. According to this article from the Columbia Journalism Review, the Associated Press has decided to phase out venerable wire-service-era editorial terms like “lede,” “hed,” “sted,” and “graf” in its stories.

Well, I guess these terms have certainly had their day. But I’m surprised, in a way, that they haven’t caught on with the latest generation of web-based writers. After all, they have a couple things going for them:

  • They’re retro. They were born in the time of steampunk. When you hear them, you think manual typewriters and telegraphs. And as print newspapers increasingly acquire retro-chic cachet akin to vinyl LPs, perhaps some of that warm glow will shine on the terms of the trade as well.
  • They’re short. In an era when, once again, space constraints limit how much can be communicated effectively in one burst (think Twitter and text messages), abbreviated terms can pack much information into a small, efficient space. Think about it: “30” is perfect for a numeric keypad, and it uses five whole fewer characters than “kthxbai.”

We may have to wait a while, but I think these classics will make a comeback. After all, text messaging gave numeric keypad letters a whole new life long after people had stopped using them to remember telephone exchanges. They have stuck around this long — not because of nostalgia, but because their usefulness outlived the contingencies that created them. Whether we “RT” or “TK,” we’ll always have a need for editorial shorthand.

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Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.