May 31, 2017

Whether you’re reporting news or telling a story, you know you have to entice your audience instantly. There are essentially two types of leads for any story: direct and delayed. One gets to the point immediately, while the other may take awhile. But each type responds to the central interest: “Tell me the news” or “Tell me a story.”

Direct leads get right to the point: “Tell me the news.” These leads focus on breaking developments. They summarize the story in a single paragraph. The idea is to communicate the most important information as quickly as possible by compressing the most newsworthy aspect of the story into a single paragraph.

Here are two types of direct leads:

Summary: The ability to sum up a story in a single paragraph is one of journalism’s most basic skills. Leads that deliver the news go by various names: hard or breaking news, direct and summary. This type of lead generally answers the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. The best ones also answer “how” and “so what.”

Analysis: Readers and viewers are looking to the news media for stories that analyze the events and issues of the day, that put the news into perspective. That’s where the analysis lead comes in.

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

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
Vicki Krueger

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