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Initial background research will either confirm the starting hypothesis, or suggest an alternative. It is possible that one may even have found the opposite of what expected to find! But on this basis, you – not your editor, not your source, but you – can now sum up your story in a concise, punchy working headline. This may not be the headline the story ends up with, but it is a good way of holding on to the focus of the story. It will help to pitch the story and may even help to think creatively about how the story can be presented by a news organisation. Of course, you can and should modify it as you find out more; you are getting there!

‘Doctors killing babies’ versus ‘”Saved” babies sick on the streets’

Mark Hunter, a journalism professor, discussed how he was instructed to ‘get the story’ on doctors in American hospitals ‘killing off’ premature babies. But he found that this lead was completely incorrect. A new law in the U.S., inspired by the conservative religious-fundamentalist lobby, ruled that even infants, who were so premature and weak that they required constant, painful, invasive medical procedures, had to be kept alive. Babies, who lacked the physical ability to survive before the law has been adopted, were now subjected to operations, tubes, drips, tests and other operations. Doctors were actually saving many more premature infants than ever before in history. Unfortunately, most of these babies were growing up into chronically sick, severely disabled toddlers. Additionally, another conservative-inspired law had simultaneously cut social spending. Now almost no free support services existed for disabled children from poor homes. Many of these ‘saved’ children then vegetated on the streets. And Hunter ended up with the opposite headline, which was only mildly less shocking.