Beginning of a news story.
Grab the reader's attention.
Follow the subject-verb-object structure.
Should not exceed 35 words.
Types of leads
• Hard news lead
• Direct or Summary Lead
• Summary Lead with Attribution
• Delayed-Identification Lead
• Impact Lead
Hard news lead
• Gives just the details in a straightforward way.
• Summarizes the basic facts, the most important points.
• Conveys what you learned in your reporting.
• More than just an opening to your story.
• Must capture the readers’ attention and persuade them to
read your story.
• Leads are different for every single story.
Direct or Summary Lead
• Tells the most important aspect of the story at once.
• Conform to this structure:
• WHO + (did) WHAT + <WHEN> + /WHERE/ +
[WHY/HOW/UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS]*
• *Where, why and how are not always included in the
lead. They may also provide the focus of hard-news
Summary Lead with Attribution
• Gets right to the point.
• Usually one sentence, two at most.
• First and last words of the lead are critical.
• Use active voice rather than passive voice.
• Shares who gave the information; adds credibility.
• Also a summary lead.
• Used when the “who” is not well-known.
• Age, occupation (modifier) used in first ‘graph.
• Identified by name in the second paragraph.
• Impact Lead – Explains how readers are
affected by an issue.
• Summary or in a delayed form.
• Not in a delayed-ID form, however.
Homeowners whose roofs were damaged
during the recent tornado have five more days
to apply for a tax extension.
New taxes now on the books will have
Jefferson County residents digging deeper into
• Make sure the lead includes the most
important of the five W's and H.
• Particularly the “who” (person or thing), (did)
what, and when. For a story about a report,
never begin with the statement “A report was
• In general, keep the lead to 17-35 words.
• If your story uses a delayed-identification lead,
make sure the lead begins with an identifier
(age, location, occupation, or other identifier).
• Present modifier in the first paragraph.
Identify the person in the second paragraph.
• For an impact lead, the “who” of the lead will be
the persons impacted by news being reported.
“Students who own cars will have to pay more to
park on campus.”
• To continue the story, present the rest of your
facts in order of decreasing import — mix quotes
(direct and indirect), elaboration and background.
• Keep it tight.
• Avoid distractions — Goal: Write a coherent lead without
capital letters other than the first one. No numerals, no
commas and no formal titles.
• Set the right tone — Don’t write a flippant lead when
• Don’t bury the lead — Cut to the chase!
• Highlight differences.
• Speak clearly — Avoid jargon, acronyms, foreign phrases,
abstract concepts, general and vague language.
• Use active words.
• Be visual — help the reader “see” what’s happening.
Paul Roberts looks exhausted. His complexion is chalky, his
five-o’clock shadow positively Nixonian, his smart blue suit
rumpled, and his stomach, a victim of too many quick and
greasy restaurant meals, creeping over his belt.
• Put people first.
• Double-decker leads — don’t repeat the first paragraph in the second.
A Homewood councilman is shocked and appalled that transportation grants
have been cut again.
“I’m shocked and appalled that transportation grants have been cut
again,” John Richardson said Thursday.
• Place the time element with care — If needed, make sure it will sound
natural if read aloud.
• Avoid the insultingly obvious.
• The “so what” paragraph.
• Every story must have a nut graph.
• Gives a story significance. (Same as a summary lead.)
• Should be placed as near to the beginning of the story
as possible, usually by the 2nd, 3rd or 4th paragraph.
• Spells out the theme or sub-themes in greater detail.