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More than 95% of Crimeans voted to break way from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, according to preliminary results, in a referendum that raises the stakes in the most acute East-West confrontations since the Cold War.
The headline read, “Crimea Votes to Secede, Join Russia.” Underneath the sub-headline read, “Overwhelming Support to Separate From Ukraine Raises East-West Tensions; U.S. Prepares Sanctions.” Think about that for a second. Then, ask yourself what is wrong with that lead and with those headlines. Suppose for the moment that The Wall Street Journal is a newspaper. Suppose that its aim is to inform its readers about what is going on. Then, rewrite the lead and the headlines so that the story actually does what it is supposed to do. This is, I think, a useful exercise — for it raises a question of some importance. Are there any editors at The Wall Street Journal worthy of the name? For those of you who have no experience in writing for a daily newspaper, let me add something. The newspaper is written under the presumption that readers are in a hurry, that very few readers will get past the first few paragraphs of an article, and that one should never, never, never bury the lead by putting the most important information in the body of the article. So think about this article in this fashion. What is wrong with the lead?