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.


  • 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?


  • 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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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger writes and coordinates digital content and internal communications for BayCare Health System, a leading not-for-profit with 15 hospitals and a range of services in central Florida.


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