The Ebola epidemic sweeping West Africa could infect up to 500,000 people by the end of January, according to a new estimate under development by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


As my title not so discreetly mentions, this article written by Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post is an example, of what News Reporting and Writing calls, the inverted pyramid lead because it gives readers an answer to the questions of what, where, when and who at the top of the piece (171).

What: “The Ebola Epidemic”

Being as this is currently a hot topic, I think the journalist put the “what” in the pinnacle position of importance because such a phrase is easily picked up by search engines (52).

Where: “West Africa”

The geographical location immediately follows the “what,” so those just joining in on the issue’s coverage can have a brief introduction and the necessary context. Not to mention, the “where” identifies that the content of this article is categorized as world news.

The Significance of a Number: “500,000”

As the reading for this week mentioned, numbers are utilized to highlight the impact of a story (164). However, I question if the words “half-a-million” would have increased or decreased the alarm and emergency readers felt in learning about the situation. Also, does a number of this size not need proportion in relation to the total number of people who could become infected with Ebola in West Africa (151)?

In some ways, this impactful statistic could be seen as a veiled “so what” statement (174). Non-West Africans should care because people just like them are dying of a sickness that has touched and can touch more Americans. U.S. citizens are not invincible.

When: “By the End of January”

This simple statement identifies that not only has the Ebola epidemic been in the news for weeks, but it will also continue to be covered by news sources into the new year.

Who: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”

The association of this sentence with the above organization causes this complete thought to transform from an unsupported statement to a fact and dually compensates for the use of doubtful language: “Could infect up to 500,000 people.” Additionally, the statistic has to be attributed to its source (162).

Personally, I would have placed the CDC at the beginning of the sentence since any mention of the CDC makes pieces eye-catching and classifies the article as serious in nature.

However, this writer stylistically chose to leave the “why” and “how” out of the lead (171). Despite the absence of those two components, this thirty-one word plus one statistic lead manages to get to the point rapidly without creating a overstuffed first sentence.

The textbook would say this lead is too long because it exceeds twenty-five words, but I do not believe a fully developed opening statement could have been made on that word count (173). In fact, I do not think I can see anything that needs to be removed or added to this lead. However, I realize this is personal to the reader as no one lead is perfect for every news consumer.

In summation, I believe this lead is effective since I discovered all I wanted to know about this piece of health news in one sentence.

Work Cited: Missouri Group. News Reporting and Writing. 11 ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. Print.