While editing several stories today I found myself mired in a quandary on how to present a series of events.  Should it be done chronologically or using the Inverted Pyramid method employed by journalists?  To warm up I rewrote a famous news paper article from the New York Herald detailing the events of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Below is the newspaper article as it was written in 1865;

      This evening at about 9:30 p.m. at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Harris and Major Rathburn, was shot by an assassin, who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.
      The assassin then leaped upon the stage, brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theatre.
      The pistol ball entered the back of the President’s head and penetrated nearly through the head. The wound is mortal.
      The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now dying.
     About the same hour an assassin, whether the same or not, entered Mr. Seward‘s apartment and under pretense of having a prescription was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs on the chest and two on the face. It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehension is that they will prove fatal.
     The nurse alarmed Mr. Frederick Seward, who was in an adjoining rented room, and he hastened to the door of his father’s room, when he met the assassin, who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Frederick Seward is doubtful.
      It is not probable that the President will live through the night.
      General Grant and his wife were advertised to be at the theatre…

Below is my rewording / rewrite of the article that includes all but a couple of the less pertinent facts;

      At 9:30pm this evening, President Lincoln was assaulted while sitting in a private box with his wife at the Ford Theater.
      The assassin entered the box, approaching the president from behind and shot him in the head. He is not expected to survive. After shooting the president, the assassin made his escape by leaping from the box onto the stage and was seen wielding a large dagger or knife.
      During the same hour, Secretary of State Seward was stabbed multiple times by an assassin while recovering from an illness in his apartment. It is unknown whether these acts were perpetrated by a single assassin or if there are two at large. Mr. Seward’s survival is sadly not anticipated either.
      The assault on Mr. Seward occurred when an individual entered the apartment under the pretense of delivering a prescription to the ailing Secretary. A nurse in attendance was able to alert Mr. Seward’s son Frederick who was in the room adjacent to Mr. Seward’s. Upon entering his father’s room, Frederick was also stabbed and is not expected to survive.
      Major Rathborn and Mrs. Harris were also sitting in Mr. Lincoln’s private box and were unharmed.  General Grant was also in attendance elsewhere in the theater with his wife and both were also unharmed.

Some deference must be paid to differences in writing between that era and now (Twenty Two Zero).  My focus was on making the article more concise and adhering more closely to the aforementioned Inverted Pyramid.

The details I chose to eliminate were the bodily locations where individuals were stabbed as it didn’t seem to add any useful information.  Plus it seemed a bit too graphic adding it as an additional detail at the end of the article, given the year of publication.  He got stabbed and he’s dead, whether the stab was in the face, chest, or stomach doesn’t matter as much as he’s dead.  For me it’s the equivalent of falling off a 10,000 foot cliff VS a 2,000 foot cliff.  In both instances the final result is hitting the ground (at the same speed) and death.  The difference being the length of time it takes to arrive at the end result.

The image used in this post is ironic because often times writers metaphorically feel a bit like president Lincoln did in this picture.

Categories: Thoughts