Writing leads How you start is quite important
Intro • In mass media writing, we refer to the opening paragraph of a story as the lead. • It is also sometimes spelled lede, to avoid confusion with the word lead, which has multiple meanings.
Why’s it so important? • Particular importance is placed on the lead because:- It often contains the most newsworthy information in the story.- It serves to “hook” the reader. A good lead draws readers into the story and gets them interested in reading on.- Web searches.
Poor leads • An otherwise quality story might never be read if it suffers from a poor lead. • The reader may just decide to stop reading if the opening is no good.
The straight news lead • A typical lead for an inverted pyramid story is one that delivers the most important information straight at the top. • Good because it gets to the point quickly. • Readers are used to this structure. It is familiar to us all.
Technical structure • A good lead is typically 25 words or less. • We follow normal rules for punctuation, grammar, word usage and verb tense in good leads.
Leads answer basic questions • Who, what, where and when. • Lead contains just enough information to relay the main news. • Other details can go in subsequent paragraphs.
So what is the big deal? • When we are starting a story, writers need to decide what is the most important piece of information to relay. • What about this story has the greatest impact on the most readers or viewers in my audience?
Basic types of stories and leads • An accident – was anyone injured or killed? Damage? • Tragedies – fire, robbery, crime. What was the result? • Money – taxes, fees, tuition hikes. Changes? • Something that is spectacular or unusual. • Something this is new. New business, new product, etc.
Emphasize • Your lead should emphasize your story’s most interesting and important developments. • It should emphasize the story’s impact on readers and viewers in your audience. • It should emphasize the most unusual or unexpected developments.
All those terms to refer to leads • In the portion of the textbook on leads, the author used several different terms to describe leads. • Don’t worry so much about the specific terms; instead, focus on absorbing the concepts behind the terms.
Avoid leads like these • Questions. Leads that ask a question are not good. Stories answer questions instead of raising them. • Direct quotations. Do not use. Ever. They lack context. • Definitions. Snore. • Cliches.
Similarities • If you look at leads in print and broadcast news reports, you’ll find similarities in structure are apparent. • Also public relations and advertising. • In PR and advertising, leads can take on even more importance, because you are trying to promote or sell something, and you may have limited time and/or space.
Lead one – the facts • Gunman enters Discovery Channel headquarters • Has gun, is wearing explosives • Takes two employees and a security guard hostage • Has history of protesting against Discovery • Is shot and killed by police after four-hour standoff
Lead one - organizing • What is the story about? • What should we go with first?
Lead one – NY Times version • Police officers shot and killed a gunman with a history of protesting against the Discovery Channel, the authorities said, ending a nearly four-hour ordeal on Wednesday at the company’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md. The gunman, apparently wearing explosives, had taken two employees and a security guard hostage, officials said.
Lead two – the facts • Hurricane Earl approaches United States • Location – Atlantic Coast, near North Carolina • Might hit land by the end of today • Residents flee outer banks of North Carolina • What do we start with?
Lead two – NY Times version • Hurricane Earl edged toward the Atlantic coastline Thursday as tourists and residents fled the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the wake of forecasts that the storm might lash the state by the end of the day.
Lead three – the facts • Labor Day weekend is upon us. • Many people are traveling. • Where in Michigan are the most tickets handed out? • According to a study by the National Motorists Association, the answer is …. • Drum roll …
Lead three – the facts, 2 • Livonia! • Lead, Detroit Free Press:Livonia was named the city with the worst speed traps in Michigan by the National Motorists Association. • Very straightforward
Lead three – next couple graphs • The organization said they identified cities by using data from their National Speed Trap Exchange where people share information about speed traps. • The worst speed trap cities were named in two categories in each state: worst overall and worst under 100,000 population. Livonia was cited worst for both in Michigan by the organization.