3 guidelines for writing breaking-news leads

In an age in which technology gives us the ability to publish anytime, anywhere, on any platform, it can be tricky to choose the best lead–especially when the news is breaking.

Here are some guidelines to make sure your story is the one your audience chooses.

Time

  • Did the story just happen?
  • Are you the first to report it, or will most of your audience already know about it?
  • Is the time element crucial?

Audience needs

  • Will your audience get the news from you first?
  • If they already know the news, would they be better served with a lead that anticipates their knowledge?

Exclusivity

  • Are you the only news organization that has the story? Scoops once counted for more when several newspapers published in a city. Now the competition is from TV, online, social–you name it. If there is a story that only you have, you might want to tell readers it is an exclusive.

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

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