Your quest for a lead starts with these questions about your story

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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    Vicki Krueger

    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 position as marketing communications manager.


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