By yesterday afternoon, we had our Page 1A story for today figured out. For the fourth time in recent weeks, a home in the hills of east Medford had been broken into and in three of those four cases, the break-in occurred while the residents were home. The most recent was the most heinous, with two elderly people assaulted by a man who forced his way into their home at 4 in the morning.
We had the story about the assault ready to go (and it had already appeared on the Web), when we realized it really wouldn’t make much sense with the photo we had of a neighbor walking her dog. We had talked with several neighbors about the recent break-ins and had a photo of the woman who was out walking. But it would have made for an odd combination to have that photo running under a headline along the lines of “Elderly couple assaulted in violent robbery.”
We didn’t have another photo choice to go with that story, so our option was to rework the story. We moved up quotes from neighbors talking about their concerns about the recent incidents and rewrote the lead to say “Residents in an east Medford neighborhood are on edge after a man forced his way into a Hillcrest home early Tuesday morning . . ..”
That created what in the journalism world is called a second-day lead, focusing — at least initially — more on the effects of an event, than on the event. The full story contained all the information of the original version, but led with the neighborhood concerns.
With the story already having been the most viewed story of the day on our website and likely to get plenty of air time on local TV stations, the second-day lead probably made more sense anyway. Rather than telling people what they already know, the second-day lead comes at the story from a different angle.
But, truth be told, that wasn’t our plan. Circumstances dictated the way we handled the story and fortunately it worked out in the end. Much as we like to have our days planned out, that’s often the way it is in this profession: The unexpected occurs and we adjust on the fly. It’s one of the things that makes it interesting to work in the news business.