Every news story begins with an introduction called the lead. This may be a single word, a phrase, a clause, a brief sentence, an entire paragraph or a series of paragraphs. The main functions of the lead, aside from introducing the news story, are to tell the story in capsule form and to answer right away the questions the reader would naturally ask. A good lead answers all the important questions of the reader, indicates the attendant circumstances if they are all important, and arouses the readers’ interest to continue reading the story. The lead is the beginning, the most important structural element of a story. Charnley (1966) stated that, "an effective lead is a brief, sharp statement of the story's essential facts." The lead is usually the first sentence, or in some cases the first two sentences, and is ideally 20-25 words in length. Leads should:
* open with bright, interesting, colorful nouns and verbs be brief (often only 20-30 words)
be, for the most part, one sentence in length
be crisp and to the point
effectively summarize the story
"feature the feature"
include attribution (the source) if needed for credibility
give the title for any person mentioned
not include personal pronouns such as "we" and "you"
not include reporter opinion
The typical lead is called a summary lead or straight summary lead, and it, of course, summarizes the story. The journalist must, therefore, write a clear, fairly short sentence that reveals all, telling the end result of the story. Someone should be able to read the lead and be informed about what happened without reading the rest of the story. A summary lead should answer as many of the 5W's and H as possible: who, what, when, where, why and how. The 5 W’s and H provide the news writer with quick and convenient means of organizing the lead of a story. They also provide the framework or structure for organizing the lead of a story. This is one of the most common forms of hard news story. But, the question is that how do we decide what is most important and what should follow in descending order of importance? Here, we must use our own judgment. Some questions to ask: What will affect the readers the most? What questions does the lead raise that need to be answered immediately? What supporting quotes are strongest?
Below are examples of leads which feature the various 5W's & H. The words that make up the "W" that is featured are in bold face type.
| WHO lead
Used when the person involved is more prominent than what he does or what happens to him. -Reckless drivers who don't seem to be drunk may well be high on cocaine or marijuana, according to roadside tests that indicate drugs may rival alcohol as a hazard on the highway. -Monica Lewinsky, the former low-level aide at the center of the current White House investigation, is willing to submit to a polygraph examination in exchange for complete immunity from prosecution, her lawyer said Sunday. WHAT lead
Used when the event or what took place is more important than the person involved in the story. -A pack of wild monkeys terrorized a seaside resort town south of Tokyo last week, attacking 30 people and sending eight of them to the hospital with bites. (This also co-features the who.)
-A Soyus spacecraft docked flawlessly with the Mir space station Saturday, bringing a fresh crew of two Russian cosmonauts and a Frenchman to the orbiting outpost -- along with a bottle of French wine.
Used when the reason is more prominent or unique than what happens. -With more amateurs cutting wood for use as an alternative to high-priced heating oil, hospitals are coping with an increasing number of injuries due to chain-saw accidents, reported the American College of Surgeons.
Used when the place is unique and no prominent person is involved. -Red China will be the site of the next International Film Festival.
Rarely used as the reader...
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