3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the power of a good headline

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

In an advice column for journalists published more than a decade ago, Rick Reilly wrote about the importance of the lead. If you don’t grab your audience in your first paragraph, Reilly said, they will not stick around to appreciate all the content that follows.

One could easily extrapolate that concept to include the headline.

These days, headlines are huge. We are bombarded with them and make snap judgments about whether to click on articles based on them. Content providers across the globe are trying to figure out the ways to get their headlines noticed and search-able, let alone just plain interesting.

This week, I present “3 Great Stories” that captured me with their headlines — and then kept me with their content:

Inside the race to rescue a health site, and Obama (11/30/13, New York Times): This is a near-perfect headline.

It sets the stakes for the story — and what high stakes they are! It also sets the standard for the article’s content; a reader can expect right away to be treated to a look behind the tightly closed doors of the White House.

The article does not disappoint. Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear begin the piece by delving into a critical October meeting in which President Barack Obama was fully alerted to the problems of the Affordable Care Act’s web site. Stolberg and Shear begin their article from a place of major tension, gripping the audience early and holding it for seven web pages worth of paragraphs.


3 GREAT STORIES OF THE WEEK: Starring Groupon, the Heimlich, and the first presidential press conference

Every week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

I probably would have ignored the following three stories had I not known who produced them.

I would have shrugged at the prospect of reading 3,000 words about the daily deals company Groupon.

I would have laughed at the notion of spending 25 minutes learning about the man behind the Heimlich maneuver.

And I would have yawned at the idea of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first presidential press conference.

But I respected the authors behind the stories, so I gave each one a shot. And wow, was I rewarded.

As a reader and viewer of journalism, I truly appreciate when someone can expand my knowledge about a subject with a thorough, well-researched work of storytelling. I highly recommend each of the articles below. If their topics don’t tickle your fancy at first, just allow them a few paragraphs (or, in the case of the Heimlich story, a few minutes) to lure you in.

Greed is Groupon (3/13/13, The Verge): This is a long one, but it’s worth it. Writer Ben Popper mostly ignores the rise of the daily deals giant Groupon and heads straight to the behind-the-scenes details surrounding its fall. Surely you have checked out sites like Groupon and wondered, “How do these guys make any money?” As Popper’s piece shows, sometimes the company leaders don’t quite have the answer, either.