I had no desire to ever visit Alabama until I read the subhead of a Washington Post story by Scott Vogel. And my guess is that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute didn’t have it in its press release.
Vogel’s headline — “A march into history” — and familiar photo of Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t draw me in. But the subhead was:
Alabama women who lived it help give a 21st-century spirit
to the civil rights struggle.
Alabama women who lived the civil rights movement? Old women infusing a historic time with a modern spirit?
My attention was captured, and I was soon reading. On its face, this is an article about why you should visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute museum and research center. But in several strokes of journalistic genius, Vogel treats it as a feature story.
Instead of, “The museum features the desk at which Martin Luther King wrote his plans for the bus boycott,” you read, “She shows King’s office in the basement, then allows me a peek – not part of the public tour – at the blond wood desk on which he planned the Montgomery bus boycott.”
You’re there, taking “a gut-wrenching trip” through history that the writer makes personal through the eyes of women who were there.
Think about Vogel’s approach the next time you write a press release or newsletter article.