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Writing leads

Writing leads

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Writing leads

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  1. Writing leads

  2. Leads • This is the hook that grabs the reader. • Without the hook, no one will read your story. • It is the first paragraph. (for newspaper writing a paragraph is usually shorter than five sentences all the time – you’re just giving the main idea and not all the detail stuff) • It is usually no longer than one or two sentences. Much more and no one will read it.

  3. Leads • There are different leads to go with different types of stories. • Leads should NOT exceed 35-40 words. • They are only one paragraph long. • Remember to keep people first when possible.

  4. Types • Hard news leads: • The lead is quick and to the point. • Nothing cute because it would be inappropriate. • Hard news: facts that people want/need to know

  5. Summary Lead • These are usually found in the hard news story. Use only “just the facts.” • They encompass a hook and as many of the 5W and H as possible. • Example: • County administrator faces ouster • By Tony Cook for The Cincinnati Post, Jan. 14, 2005 • Two Hamilton County Commissioners plan to force the county’s top administrator out of office today.

  6. example • Hard news: • A fire destroyed a home. • Four people were left homeless Tuesday after a five alarm blaze swept through their two story home. • The next graph, the nut graph, would contain the specifics.

  7. Example: • The school’s budget is cut • The Board of Supervisors have decided to cut school spending by 35 percent for the upcoming budget; including cutting high school football programs.

  8. Anecdotal Lead • This lead sets the scene with a story. It can be used with both hard news (less likely) and features. • Example: • Anecdotal lead: • Tri-staters tell stories of the devastating tsunami • By Tony Cook for The Cincinnati Post, Jan. 8, 2005 • From Dan Ralescu’s sun-warmed beach chair in Thailand, the Indian Ocean began to look, oddly, not so much like waves but bread dough.

  9. Question Lead • Asks a question to get the reader thinking. • However, the answer must be provided in the nut graph. • Can be used in all types of stories – however, using this too often will make your editor unhappy. • Gimmick type of lead. • Same lobbyist for courts, shorter term, more money • By Tony Cook for the Las Vegas Sun, June 29, 2008 • What’s increasing faster than the price of gasoline? Apparently, the cost of court lobbyists. • District and Justice Court Judges want to hire lobbyist Rick Loop for $150,000 to represent the court system in Carson City through the 2009 legislative session. During the past session, Loop’s price tag was $80,000.

  10. Quote Lead • Starts with a quote. Must be best quote ever. Can be used in any type of story. • Good to set the scene. • Example: • I don't want to sound anti-American," poet Derek Walcott told his audience at Illinois Wesleyan University, "but this country is the only nation that taxes the Nobel Prize."

  11. Background Lead • Start with a very very brief background of what’s happening and then follow it up in the same sentence with the current event. • Example: • After two weeks of picketing, United Auto Workers put down their signs yesterday following an agreement which would give members a 10 percent raise.

  12. Ironic or Contrast Lead • You give the reader two images in the lead. • Create an irony they want to read more about. • Also called “turn around leads” because there is some type of turn in the sentence. Usually noted by “however”, “but” or other similar words. • Example: • St. John's Church survived the 1868 fire that destroyed most of Bloomington, and it weathered firebombs thrown in anger during the sixties. But it crumbled last night under the weight of snow from yesterday's freak storm.

  13. Soft news Lead • Soft news is considered entertainment, features, lifestyle. You don’t need to get directly to the point with those stories. • You want to entertain the reader – not get directly to informing

  14. Punch Lead • Not usually found in hard news. • Usually a little more light hearted and quirky. Good way to hook reader. • Starts off with some obscure or random statement the reader wouldn’t expect. • Example: • Two muskrats have taken over Holiday Pool, evading would-be capturers and forcing residents to look for other ways to survive the latest heat-wave.

  15. Indirect leads • Indirect leads tease the reader and don’t provide all the information up front. • These are used mainly on features. • They address the reader directly and assume a “you” speaking form.

  16. Indirect Leads • Examples: • What has four eyes, two feet, and likes to live in your sock drawer? • The soft crunching sound on the pavement behind you late at night may not be as scary as you think. • Yoda may have gotten it right when he said the force is with you.

  17. Longer leads • Sometimes, with feature and entertainment stories, the lead could be a few paragraphs in length before the writer really starts the article. • But, remember – it must be interesting or else people will stop reading.

  18. Example of a Good lead • Source: BBC • Article: Deadly landslide hits town in Southern Mexico • URL: • Reason it's a good lead: This lead does a good job of capturing what, how, where, and who. It is clear, concise, and gets to the point right away. It also grabs the readers attention. • Lead:A landslide triggered by heavy rain has hit a town in southern Mexico, killing at least four people and engulfing a number of houses, officials say. • Summary Lead

  19. Good Leads • Source: Boston Globe (Associated Press) • Article: Mass. Rep. Polito again blocks $400M spending bill • URL: • Reason it's a good lead: This is a good lead because it is focused, uses effective verbs and quickly answers where, who, what, when. At the same time, the lead/lede is interesting enough where it captures the readers attention. • Lead: BOSTON—Massachusetts Rep. KarynPolito has blocked plans by House Democratic lawmakers to pass a $400 million midyear spending bill for a second straight day. • Summary Lead

  20. Good Leads •  By a correspondent for the Memphis Daily Appeal, after the first day of the Civil War Battle of Shiloh. • Summary lead • We slept last night in the enemy's camp.

  21. Good leads •  Shirley Povich, The Washington Post & Times Herald, on the perfect game the Yankee pitcher hurled against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. • Punch Lead • The million‑to‑one shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar. Don Larsen today pitched a no-­hit, no‑run, no‑man‑reach‑first game in a World Series.

  22. Good Leads •  Walter Terry, dance critic of The New York Herald Tribune, after two members of Congress denounced Graham's dancing as "erotic." • “I feel as if I had been pawed by dirty hands," said Martha Graham. • Quote Lead

  23. Good Leads •  St. Clair McKelway, Washington Herald, in a story about a disabled World War I veteran living in poverty. • What price Glory? Two eyes, two legs, an arm  $12 a month. • Question Lead

  24. Resources • •