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Opening Arguments

Opening lines

The lead sentence or paragraph of a newspaper story tells you -- or should -- what the writer and editors think is the single most important point of the article. Here's The Associated Press on the anaylsis showing that property tax caps in Indiana are going to have a greater impact than expected:

INDIANAPOLIS — Property owners in Indiana are expected to save more than $70 million more on their tax bills in the next two years than originally predicted because of caps on property taxes, according to a new analysis released Monday.

Here's the Louisville Courier-Journal, same information, different emphasis:

INDIANAPOLIS — New limits on property tax bills will cost cities, counties and schools millions more dollars than expected in 2010 and 2011, increasing the pressure on some already-cash-strapped local budgets, according to legislative data released Monday.

I confess to liking the AP's version better, since I'm a property tax payer, and it's partly my money they're talking about. Here's the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, playing it right down the middle, in the story's second sentence:

Although the news is bad for governments around the state that will receive less property tax revenue than originally estimated, it also means property taxpayers will save money.

I might have turned that sentence around -- "Property owners will save money, and governments around the state . . ." --  but I like that approach best of all, because it sets up a balanced discussion that the story mostly delivers.


tim zank
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 9:49am

One could almost say your favorite version is actually "fair & balanced". heh heh heh...

Knuth retort in 5,4,3,2,

kent strock
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 1:41pm

Speaking of journalistic standards I am wondering when you are going to publish this letter I sent in a couple of weeks ago.

It was very disappointing to see Kevin Leininger's front page editorial that masqueraded as a "news" story. The editorial entitled "Health care 'profit' does not equal 'exploitation" belonged, by ALL journalistic ethics, in the opinion/editorial section and should not be presented as an objective news story placed on the front page.

Leininger begins the editorial by quoting Edith Kenna from the group Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Care Plan. I guess she questions the extent to which profit should play in our health care system. The problem with the piece is that we are never provided any information about the group and their ideas and argument

Leo Morris
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 1:48pm

We've received several letters on Leininger's column. Some have been published, some haven't yet. And I don't believe for a second that you were "disappointed." Venting about our "lack of standards and ethics" pretty much makes your day, doesn't it?

kent strock
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 3:04pm

No actually it doesn't. It dismays me. Not sure what that has to do with journalistic standards. When can I expect the letter to be published?

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 5:02pm

Leininger also had a front-page piece uncritically airing the views of a Dr. Menton, who despite having a Ph.D. from Brown believes the Earth is about 6,000 years old and evolution didn't happen. Menton is welcome to his beliefs, of course, but readers are ill-served if it isn't pointed out that Menton is considered a bit of a loon by virtually all other scientists. Readers could easily get the impression that Dr. Menton's views are mainstream science. Leininger writes well and enjoys arguing (don't I know it!), but his stuff belongs on the editorial page.

kent strock
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 5:10pm

It doesn't sound like it belongs on editorial page. Maybe the religion page.

kent strock
Wed, 10/07/2009 - 2:17pm

When Leo says, "And I don

Leo Morris
Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:39pm

1. Your letter will be in tomorrow's paper.

2. Part of professionalism, as I understand it, requires us to do what we are supposed to do despite what opinions we might have. It does not require us not to have opinions or to refrain from expressing them.

3. And, at the risk of sounding tedious: Kevin Leininger is a columnist and, as such, speaks for himself and no one else, regardless of where his column runs in the paper. Columnists are given their forums because it is believed they write well and would create a strong presence to develop a following.

lewis allen
Thu, 10/08/2009 - 6:58pm

I've gotta agree with Leo on this one. Anyone who regularly reads Leininger's columns knows that it's his opinion. There's a pretty clear disclaimer included with each piece. And although I rarely share Leininger's views, I think he does a good job of presenting multiple views on any given topic, and in a generally respectful way.