Re-ordering the “Five W’s”

by Dan Ward

The transformation is complete. With its coverage of the Ft. Hood tragedy, my hometown paper has officially accepted that in a 24-hour news cycle, print newspapers no longer “break” the news.

The lead on the front page reads: “The suspected lone gunman in the shooting rampage that killed 12 people and wounded 31 at Fort Hood in Texas was a mental-health doctor apparently terrified that he would soon face the same horrors of war that patients had described to him.”

The story assumes that the reader of the print edition is already aware of the tragedy, having learned about it either through the online edition or some other source. Instead of beginning with the What, Where and When, the story leads analysis of the Who and the Why.

Only on page three do you see the traditional news lead: “In an act of violence that sent shock waves through the American military establishment and raised questions about base security, an Army psychiatrist armed with two handguns opened fire Thursday afternoon on the grounds of Fort Hood, Texas, military officials said.”

I’m ambivalent about the change in direction. I can understand how in today’s world, a majority of readers might be expected to have already heard about major news such as this. At the same time, I miss picking up the paper and seeing the traditional, hard-news lead that I learned to write in my journalism classes so long ago.

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