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If you lead...

By Darcy L. Fargo

Darcy Fargo

February 14, 2024

“You have eight seconds to capture your readers’ attention.”

I remember hearing that line early in my first journalism class. I remember my first editor saying it to me. I remember telling new reporters that after I became an editor. I’m told journalism students are now told five seconds, sometimes less.

That lesson is generally delivered when journalism professors or editors are talking about “leads,” sometimes spelled “ledes,” the first line/few sentences of an article, column, review…

Writing leads is my favorite part of writing this column. Why? It’s partly because the editorial style gives me more flexibility than I have when writing traditional news stories, and I can be a bit more creative, but it’s really my favorite part because I generally don’t have to do it.

No, I don’t have a ghostwriter – someone who writes work to be published under someone else’s name – helping me fill this space. Ok. Maybe I sort of do. But it’s more of a Holy Ghostwriter.

I’ve said it eleventy billion times: I used all my ideas for this column in my first six months working here. The Holy Spirit is solely responsible for filling it since.

Nearly every week, I’ll start my Friday morning (deadline to file the NCC pages is Friday afternoon) worried about what I’m going to write in this space. Then, on my commute to work or when I’m working on pages or as I’m eating my lunch, a lead randomly jumps into my brain. As soon as it happens, it’s like the column writes itself.

“You have eight seconds…” jumped into my brain as I was stressing about writing a column looking ahead to Ash Wednesday and Lent.

We don’t have only eight seconds. We have 40 days to give our attention in a special way to the Lord. Journeying with the Lord isn’t about that instant gratification we were told our readers needed back in journalism class. It’s just that – a journey. 

Living our faith isn’t easy. Living Lent isn’t easy, or at least I don’t find penance, almsgiving and prayer inherently easy. In my experience, Lent is full of ups and downs – moments of struggle and sharing in Christ’s cross, as well as moments of beauty and grace sitting in His love and mercy.

And, like the leads on my columns, it’s better when we allow the Holy Spirit to inform our Lenten practices and show us where we need to take it. When it happens, it’s like a fruitful Lenten journey writes itself.

Better yet, God takes the lead.

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