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Basic Leads. Your First Impression May Be Your Only Chance to Make an IMPACT. Make it Count. All of your excellent reporting is futile if your news story does not immediately engage your reader .

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basic leads

Basic Leads

Your First Impression

May Be Your Only Chance to Make an IMPACT

make it count
Make it Count
  • All of your excellent reporting is futile if your news story does not immediately engage your reader.
  • Writing coaches have identified four key elements that should be present in the first five paragraphs of any news story (not necessarily in any particular order).
  • But, yes, there is more.
  • News
  • Impact
  • Context
  • Emotion
  • The News: The newest information: the basic facts of who, what, when, where, why and how ... the most relevant information.
  • The Impact: What a situation means and who is effected. Tells readers how the news is going to change their lives, and, maybe, what they should do to cope with the change.
  • The Context: This is the general perspective that frames the background of the news. It addresses the relationship of things around the news. Context helps readers understand whether something is normal or surprising.
  • Emotion: The human dimension. Takes a story from abstract to reality. Offers personal elements that help readers understand the story. This is not necessarily a quote, but it could be.
every news story needs
Every News Story Needs:
  • 1. Effective lead. Focused, short, memorable.
  • 2. A second paragraph that amplifies the lead.
  • 3. A third paragraph that builds detail.
  • 4. Nut graph. Provides context or tells reader why this is important.
  • 5. Power quote. If available – an interesting quote that propels meaning. Not just a fluffy quote that gets in the way.
a well crafted lead
A Well Crafted Lead
  • A well crafted news lead provides the hook to get readers interested in the story..
  • Article leads are separated into two categories. Direct and Delayed.
  • Direct news leads share one purpose. Tell me the news!
  • Delayednews leads offer something else. Tell me a story!
direct leads
Direct Leads
  • The Summary lead is the most basic news lead, covering all of the essential elements. Simply summarize the 5 W's of news reporting. Who, What, Where, When and Why.
  • The Analysis lead digs deeper into the ramifications of the news. It puts the news into perspective by adding insight beyond the minimum required elements.
delayed leads
Delayed Leads
  • The Anecdotal lead generally leads into lighter news features. The story is illustrated through an anecdote, scene or quote.
  • A Significant Detail lead is nothing more than it claims to be. A significant detail, fact or statistic that is shocking and interesting. The reader will continue to read to find the background of such a detail.
delayed leads11
Delayed Leads
  • The Emblem lead is the process of putting a human face on the issue. Typically this means pulling from the person's situation elements that are familiar and identifiable to the reader. Unique person, universal situation.
  • The Round-Up lead is a hodgepodge of anecdotes, illustrations and examples to display how the issue has followed a trend.
delayed leads12
Delayed Leads
  • The Round-Up wouldn't be used on breaking news, but could be utilized for issues that have a recurring interest for the public.
  • The round-up process could be a reminder of where the story, or situation, last ended.
  • Any of these news leads can create exciting hooks for readers.
write a lead
Write a Lead
  • The following are tips on how to write a news lead and how to choose the right lead type to use.
  • The first step towards writing an interesting news lead is to put you in the role as a reader.
  • What about the story would your reader be most interested in or connect with?
ask yourself
Ask Yourself
  • Who could know more about the story at this point than you?
  • After researching the issue and interviewing experts or eyewitnesses, the next best step is to interview yourself.
  • What about this story do you think is valuable?
  • What would make you want to pick up the article and read it?
don t let the lead consume you
Don’t Let the Lead Consume You
  • When you begin writing your lead, you should not spend all of your time on it.
  • The rest of the article is waiting for your attention as well.
  • If you are unhappy with the lead, come back to it later with a fresh perspective.
  • Some leads arrive like pleasant doves; others need to be dug out of the ground.
revise your lead
Revise Your Lead
  • Revising your news lead is crucial to making it effective.
  • Read it Aloud. Make sure to read the lead out loud. If you stumble over words, or are unable to complete it in a single breath, go back and clean up the problem words.
  • Your lead should be quick and snappy, one you can tell someone over the phone and have them understand.
  • Ensure Accuracy and Clarity. Understanding is the requirement of a news lead. If the reader does not understand the story the lead has failed. Easy questions to ask include:
    • Is this accurate?
    • Is there industry jargon people won’t understand?
    • Is it full of clichés?
    • Does it make sense?
is it wordy
Is it Wordy?
  • Count the Words. Unnecessary words can clutter the lead. Count the words and eliminate anything that is not completely necessary. Use very simple but vigorous English.
  • Keep sentences to simple subject-verb-object agreements. A short and snappy lead will engage a reader quickly and easily flow into the rest of the story.
how to choose a lead
How to Choose a Lead
  • What kind of news lead is appropriate for the situation?
  • Breaking news, where the time element is critical, should employ a simple and direct lead.
  • If the story is exclusive to your publication, you will have the option of either a direct or delayed lead.
make it easy for the reader
Make it Easy for the Reader
  • Often, readers will have knowledge on an issue beforehand, and will require a different slant to get them involved in the story.
  • An emblem or anecdotal lead could draw the reader into the story from a different perspective.
  • Many tools are at your disposal when composing a news lead.
make it easy for the reader21
Make it Easy for the Reader
  • With careful consideration and a fresh outlook you can capture readers before the first paragraph is over.
  • Just make sure the rest of the article is just as interesting.
  • The first impression is very important, but the integrity of your story relies on delivering what you promised.
  • It is better to underpromise and overdeliver.
payback you live by your byline
Payback: You Live by Your Byline
  • When you waste a reader’s time, you have taken something from him that you can not pay back.
  • And, readers, or viewers will remember.
  • If you catch them with the lead, and then disappoint them with the story, they will remember your byline. They will not take you seriously in the future.