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In this lecture we are learning some tips to write an efficient lead

In this lecture we are learning some tips to write an efficient lead

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  • 1. Editing the Story Forth lecture 8 4 2014 By Dr. Abdel-Mohsen Okela
  • 2. BASIC NEWS LEADS
  • 3. BASIC NEWS LEADS The first paragraph or two in a news story is called the “lead.” The lead (some people spell it “lede”) is the most important part of a story and the most difficult part to write, the lead of a news story attracts the reader and, if it is well-written, arouses a reader’s interest. It should tell the reader the central point of the story, not hide the subject with unnecessary or misleading words and phrases.
  • 4. BASIC NEWS LEADS - A central point for a news story is a one- or two- sentence summary of what the story is about and why it is newsworthy. - The central point may be in the first paragraph, called the “lead.” Or it may be in a nut paragraph - called a “nut graf” - that follows a lead that tells an anecdote, describes a scene or uses some other storytelling device to entice / attract the reader into the story. By including the central point, writers clearly tell readers what they will learn from reading the entire story.
  • 5. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Beginners confuse a story’s lead with its headline. The lead is the first paragraph of a news story. The headline is a brief summary that appears in larger type above the story. - Reporters usually write leads that use subject verb-object word order. Most leads begin with the subject, which is closely followed by an active verb and then by the object of the verb.
  • 6. BASIC NEWS LEADS - use short sentences and short paragraphs. Rewrite long or awkward sentences and divide them into shorter ones that are easier to read and understand. Research has consistently found a strong correlation between readability and sentence length: The longer a sentence is, the more difficult it is to understand. One survey found that 75 percent of readers were able to understand sentences containing an average of 20 words, but understanding dropped rapidly as the sentences became longer.
  • 7. BASIC NEWS LEADS • Sometimes professionals do a poor job of keeping their leads concise. A recent study of news sources and the average number of words in their leads produced these results: Source Average length of leads in words The Washington Post 39 Los Angeles Times 34.6 The New York Times 33 United Press International 30.5 The Associated Press 30 • Many readers find a 25-word lead “difficult” to read and a 29-word lead “very difficult.” A better average would be 18 to 20 words.
  • 8. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Every news story must answer six questions: Who? How? Where? Why? When? and What? - The lead, however, is not the place to answer all of them. The lead should answer only the one or two questions that are most interesting, newsworthy and unusual. - When writers try to answer all these questions in one paragraph, they create complicated and confusing leads.
  • 9. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Be Specific. - Good leads contain interesting details and are so specific that readers can visualize the events they describe. - For example: This lead “The school board adopted new regulations Tuesday that will affect all students and parents.” It is too general and lacks specific details.
  • 10. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Avoid passive-voice constructions. Strong, active-voice verbs are more colorful, interesting and dramatic. - Be Objective and Attribute Opinions. - Strive for Simplicity, every lead should be clear, simple and to the point. - Avoid beginning a lead with the attribution. Names and titles are dull and seldom important. Moreover, if every lead begins with the attribution, all leads will sound too much alike. Place attribution at the beginning of a lead only when it is unusual or significant or deserves that emphasis. - Avoid the Negative, when writing a lead, report what happened—not what failed to happen or what does not exist
  • 11. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Reporters usually avoid using quotations in leads. Sources rarely provide quotes that meet three criteria for leads: (1)They summarize the entire story (not just part of it). (2)They are brief. (3)They are self-explanatory. - Some editors prohibit the use of quotation leads because they lack clarity and often are too long and complicated. When used in the first line of a story, a quote also must tell the reader the point of the story.
  • 12. BASIC NEWS LEADS - Questions occasionally make effective leads. Some editors, though, prohibit question leads because they believe news stories should answer questions, not ask them. - To be effective, question leads must be brief, simple, specific and provocative. The question should contain no more than a dozen words. Moreover, readers should feel absolutely compelled to answer it. Avoid questions if the readers’ responses may discourage them from continuing with the story
  • 13. BASIC NEWS LEADS • For example: “Are you interested in nuclear physics?” in this question lead a few readers might be interested in nuclear physics, but many would think the story too complicated. This question lead also fails because readers can answer “yes” or “no,” possibly ending the reader’s interest in the story. • A question should concern a controversial issue that readers are familiar with and that interests and affects them. Avoid abstract or complicated questions requiring a great deal of explanation.
  • 14. THE BODY OF A NEWS STORY
  • 15. THE INVERTED-PYRAMID STYLE - Inverted-pyramid stories arrange the information in descending order of importance or newsworthiness. The second paragraph - and sometimes the third and fourth paragraphs - provides details that amplify the lead. Subsequent paragraphs add less important details or introduce subordinate topics. Each paragraph presents additional information: names, descriptions, quotations, conflicting viewpoints, explanations and background. Beginning reporters must learn this style because it helps them decide what is most important and what is least important.
  • 16. THE INVERTED-PYRAMID STYLE - It also helps reporters discover “holes” in their information, details that have not been collected and need to be found. - The primary advantage of the inverted pyramid is that it allows someone to stop reading a story after only one or two paragraphs yet still learn the newest, most newsworthy and most important facts. The inverted pyramid also ensures that all the facts are immediately understandable. - Moreover, if a story is longer than the space available, editors can easily shorten it by deleting paragraphs from the end.
  • 17. THE INVERTED-PYRAMID STYLE - The inverted-pyramid style also has several disadvantages: 1) Because the lead summarizes facts that later paragraphs discuss in greater detail, some of those facts may be repeated in the body. 2) A story that follows the inverted pyramid rarely contains any surprises for readers; the lead immediately reveals every major detail. 3) The inverted pyramid-style evolved when newspapers were readers’ first source for breaking news; now radio, television and the Internet fill that role. 4) Readers with less than a high school education cannot easily understand stories written in this style. 5) The inverted pyramid locks reporters into a formula and discourages them from trying new styles.
  • 18. THE HOURGLASS STYLE - The hourglass story has three parts: an inverted pyramid top that summarizes the most newsworthy information, a turn or pivot paragraph and a narrative. The inverted pyramid top, which may be only three to five paragraphs, gives readers the most newsworthy information quickly. - The narrative allows the writer to develop the story in depth and detail, using the storytelling power of chronology.
  • 19. Good Luck In the next lecture Writing for Broadcast