Writing summary news leads
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Writing Summary News Leads. What is the next step?. Use the 5ws and h to write a summary news lead. Summary News Leads. The first paragraph of a news story Style is straightforward and to the point Give readers a quick, basic summary of the facts (the 5ws and h)

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Writing Summary News Leads

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Writing Summary News Leads

What is the next step?

  • Use the 5ws and h to write a summary news lead.

Summary News Leads

  • The first paragraph of a news story

  • Style is straightforward and to the point

  • Give readers a quick, basic summary of the facts (the 5ws and h)

  • Used because they are relatively simple and can be written quickly under pressure

Summary News Leads Examples

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lecturing Wall Street on its own turf, President Barack Obama warned financial leaders not to use the recovering economy to race back into "reckless behavior" that could cause a new meltdown. He declared that a bailout-weary public will not break their fall again.

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Police say a pregnant 15-year-old was shot and killed Monday morning as she waited at a North Carolina school bus stop.

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams' profanity-laced, finger-pointing tirade at a U.S. Open linesperson drew a $10,000 fine Sunday, and more punishment could follow from a broader investigation into what the head of the tournament called her "threatening manner."

  • New Haven, Conn. (AP) -- The Yale graduate student presumed to have been killed in her lab building and stuffed into a wall there was probably not the victim of a random act, police said as they sought to ease fears about student safety.

Writing News Leads

  • The lead helps to focus the story and emphasizes the most important information

  • A news lead should always begin with the most timely piece of information (news peg)

    • If voting will take place on Monday, that should be in the lead

Steps to Writing a News Lead

  • Identify the news peg.

  • Determine the 5ws and h.

  • Decide which news question is most important to the story and should be emphasized in the lead. Begin with this fact.

  • Keep it concise and active.

News Question Leads

  • Summary news leads = news question leads.

  • The news question you begin the lead with is the type of lead.

  • Example: If you begin with who the story is about – “who” lead

  • Begin with the news question that is most important to the story

The “who” lead

  • If the “who” is a person (place or thing) well known, it is usually the focus of the lead.

  • Why? The name attracts attention.

  • Unless one of the other questions is outstanding, the “big name” comes first.

  • Serena Williams lead

Example of a “who” lead

  • Coach Bubba Steroid, who led Pine Valley to four consecutive district football championships, announced his retirement in order to sell used cars door to door.

The “what” lead

  • Refers to the happening or occurrence that makes an item worth reporting.

  • Might be the election of a public official, an automobile accident, a crime or the announcement of a decision or survey

  • Yale student lead

Example of a “what” lead

  • The Pine Valley School Board voted to suspend popular coach Bubba Steroid after he was caught last week trying to sell whole-life insurance and used cars to fourth graders.

The “where” lead

  • Used on very rare occasions

  • Where must be significant to story

Example of a “where” lead

  • In the living room of his mobile home, Principal Seymour Skinner stood in front of his prized velvet painting of Elvis Presley and renewed his recommendation that courses in the study of “the King” be required in order to graduate from Pine Valley schools.

  • In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, President George Bush and Soviet Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev pledged to reduce nuclear and chemical warfare stockpiles.

The “when” lead

  • Used on very rare occasions

  • Used on when it is significant to story

Example of a “when” lead

  • As Wade and Shalina Gibson watched their dream house materialize before their eyes Monday, they found it hard to put their emotions into words.

  • When football coaches gather to talk about the team these days, …

The “why” lead

  • The motive or cause of an event

  • Often the most important feature

  • Use frequently

Example of a “why” lead

  • In an effort to teach Shakespeare to sophomores, English teacher Gina Hatley and science teacher Phil Barnes reenacted the love scene between Romeo and Juliet.

The “how” lead

  • The method by which something is accomplished

  • Used frequently

Example of a “how” lead

  • By flunking every course, missing 62 days of class and assaulting two teachers, Junior Snively gravely endangered his eligibility for high school basketball.

Use what, why and how leads

  • Used most commonly and work best

  • Bobby Hawthorne and the ILPC – lead examples


  • News leads should be no more than 30 words max!

  • Leads should be 1 -2 sentences long

  • Write in third person only

  • Write in active, not passive voice

  • Avoid starting a news lead with the words:

    • A

    • An

    • The

More Guidelines

  • Don’t begin news leads with a date or time

  • Emphasize impact, consequences and results

  • Don’t use a long list of names; instead introduce as a group

  • Introduce subjects in leads by their full name and their class, position or title.

Weak Leads

Last week the Board of Education met in Room 206 at Lincoln School. Board members voted to add a seventh period to the high school day. The vote was 6-1. The school day will be extended by 15 minutes to accommodate the change.

What are the problems?

  • Lead is wordy and too long

  • Emphasis is on old news, not the most timely element

  • Students will be taking an additional class each semester after School Board members voted last week to add a seventh period to the school day.

  • The Student Body Association, with all members present, met last week to discuss an impeachment petition, signed by 350 of the 900 students in school, which had been presented the week before. After an hour-long discussion of the charges listed in the petition, the SBA voted to impeach President Julie Smith.

  • What are the problems?

  • Lead is wordy

  • Emphasis should be on results of the vote, not that the meeting happened

  • Fails to give specific results of vote tally

  • SBA members voted 12 -3 last week to impeach President Julie Smith following an hour long discussion of charges brought against her.

  • It has been learned that Melissa Forrester, Ph.D., will be delivering the commencement address during graduation ceremonies May 29 in the gymnasium. Her speech will be titled “Back to Your Future.” Forrester is chair of the Sociology Department at Arizona State University.

  • What are the problems?

  • Lead is wordy

  • Passive voice is used

  • Not clear or concise

  • Melissa Forrester, chair of the Sociology Department at Arizona State University, will deliver the commencement address, titled “Back to Your Future,” May 29 in the gymnasium.

  • The speech team has done something we should all be proud of. They won the district championship by winning seven out of 10 of the individual events and placing second in the other three last week at Carver.

  • What are the problems?

  • News is buried at the end of the lead

  • Editorializing/Using second person

  • Sweeping seven out of 10 events, the speech team captured its first district championship last week at Carver.

  • Bill Johnson, Samantha Jones, Michelle Carver, and James Monroe, all of whom are seniors, have been selected to participate in the Wisconsin Model United Nations next week in Madison.

  • What are the problems?

  • Too many names

  • No source given

  • Four seniors will participate in the Wisconsin Model United Nations next week in Madison, according to principal John Doe.


  • Type a news lead from the news writing prompt.

  • Start by listing the 5ws and h.

  • Remember to include the most RECENT information.

Sample lead

  • Because of an anonymous $25,000 donation, students who ride a school bus to and from school will have access to the Internet during their commute starting March 1.

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