Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan reports that earlier today The Washington Post published a story online by The Courier-Journal’s Laura Ungar that was a little unfinished. In fact, the story appeared to be a first draft with editor’s notes included in big, scary ALL-CAPS. The story—about how a lack of health insurance and/or unawareness can lead to too-late detections of cervical cancer—has been taken down but Gawker has posted the entire draft. Most writers’ worst nightmare.
It’s the kind of heavily edited .doc that would draw tears (and a few grumbles) from most writers. But a quick read shows that this editor knows what he or she is doing. And for those not in the business, it shows a pretty crucial stage in a story’s journey from notepad to a-section. Here’s a sample.
THIS GRAF SENTENCE NEEDS TO BE TWEAKED. Each year, about 12,000 U.S. women get cervical cancer and (ANOTHER? OR IS THIS PART OF THE 12,000) 4,000 die. YET DOCTORS VIEW CERVICAL CANCER AS A disease THAT WITH PROPER SCREENING can easily be prevented and treated. Pre-cancerous lesions and early cancer are easily detected through screening. Lesions can be removed in a minimally-invasive procedure before they turn into cancer. And there’s a vaccine against the sexually transmitted virus that causes most cervical cancer cases.
HOW ABOUT: BUT FELDER’S CASE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY THIS MOSTLY CURABLE DISEASE IS STILL A THREAT/IS STILL KILING PEOPLE, DOCTORS SAY. TOO OFTEN WOMEN WHO DON’T HAVE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE OR THOSE WHO,HAVE not HEARD ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR SCREENINGS—DESPITE YEARS OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS—DISCOVER THE PROBLEM WHEN THE DISEASE HAS ALREADY PROGRESSED TOO FAR . YOU NEED A GENERAL QUOTE HERE TO SUPPORT THE GRAF ABOVE. THE KRISHNAN QUOTE BELOW IS TOO SPECIFIC. YOU NEED SOMETHIGN THAT SAYS: THIS IS A PREVENTABLE DISEASE, BUT WHEN PEOPLE DON’T OR CAN’T GET SCREENING, IT BECOMES A DEADLY ONE.
I THINK THE STATS IN THE NEXT GRAF ARE CONFUSING AND UNPERSUASIVE BECAUSE YOU’RE MAKING BROAD ASSUMPTIONS (BLACKS ARE POOR FOR ONE) AND ASSERTIONS THAT YOU DON’T BACK UP FOR READERS. I THINK WHAT YOU REALLY NEED ARE STATS THAT SHOW THAT WHERE THE POVERTY LEVEL IS HIGHER, THERE IS A CLEAR RISE IN CERVICAL CANCER THAT DOCTORS ATTRIBUTE TO LACK OF GOOD HEALTH CARE. yOU COULD ATTRIBUTE THIS TO A STUDY OR THE CDC OR WHATEVER. AND THEN MAYBE STILL ADD: FOR INSTANCE, IN APPALACHIA, WHERE THE INCOME LEVEL IS XXX, THE RATE IS ETC…