To write an effective lead, you have to know--first and foremost--what the story is about. Start with the five W's and an H:

  • What happened?
  • Who did it happen to?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?

With that knowledge you can logically zero in on the two basic focusing questions:

  • What the news?
  • What is this story about?

Here are some suggestions as you start writing.

  • Try to put yourself in the role of your audience. What is the most important information they need to know? Why does this news matter?
  • Interview your best source: yourself. You’ve reported the story. You are the best authority you have.
  • Don’t spend all your time on a lead. You can revise it later.

Taken from The Lead Lab, a self-directed course by Chip Scanlan at Poynter NewsU.

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