The most important line of a news story, apart from the headline and any introductory standfirst, is the first, what Americans sometimes call the lede.
Prompted by a stellar example from Sweden the other day (No 1), here is a handful of the best, be they funny or otherwise brilliant, first lines in written journalism.
1. Sweden’s Ice Hotel has been ordered by the National Housing Board to install fire alarms, despite being made completely out of frozen water.
The Local, Sweden, 2013
2. Firefighters have warned of the dangers of driving into a petrol forecourt when your car is on fire.
Kent Online, UK, 2010
3. When a hitman pulled up beside Florian Homm’s limousine and shot him in the chest, he did what any self-respecting hedge fund tycoon would have done: stuffed his wound with $100 bills and called his wife with a dying message – sell.
Sunday Times, UK, 2013
4. Darwin’s former lord mayor has lost an appeal against a jail sentence for using stolen funds to buy a refrigerator, women’s underwear and a Darth Vader voice distorter.
Courier-Mail, Australia, 2008
5. An Elvis-impersonating bankrupt is using his Tauranga home as the headquarters for a strange foreign ‘bank’ owned by a shadowy Russian businessman who paid bribes to circumvent United Nations oil sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
NZ’s own Matt Nippert in the Sunday Star-Times, 2012
6. Swino, the boozy feral pig that shot to international fame after drinking 18 cans of beer, starting a fight with a cow and causing chaos at an Australian campsite, has died in a car accident.
Belfast Telegraph, 2013
7. He coulda been a credenza.
(About the estate of Marlon Brando suing a retailer over its ‘Brando’ furniture line.)
The Daily (now defunct), 2011, via Poynter
8. Sonic booms created by Israeli air force planes breaking the sound barrier have stimulated the sex drive of a group of crocodiles on a local farm.
Daily Telegraph, Australia, 2010
9. A gay man tried to poison his lesbian neighbours by putting slug pellets into their curry after he was accused of kidnapping their three-legged cat.
Daily Mail, UK, 2009
10. A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria after making a rude gesture at a group of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members, hurling a puppy at them and then escaping on a stolen bulldozer.
See also: Ten of the best newspaper corrections.