___The summary lead is the most traditional lead in a journalism article. It is to the point and factual. It's meant to give a reader a quick summary of the story in as few words as possible (should be 30 words or less), usually in one sentence. It contains the essence of the story (i.e. the most important, but not necessarily all, of the 5 Ws and H -- who, what, when, where, why and how). It cites the source of any opinions. ___For example, I frequently used this approach when I covered breaking news for a wire service: __WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress yesterday that U.S. economic growth appeared to be slowing, heading off for the moment any need to raise interest rates. Wall Street responded with a cheer, sending stocks and bonds soaring.
___This lead focuses on just one or two elements of a summary lead for a bigger punch. For instance, when the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series, their first championship since 1980, a story posted online by the Associated Press began with this single-item lead: __The Philadelphia Phillies are World Champions again.
___As opposed to this typical summary lead, which Reuters used: __The Philadelphia Phillies ended their long wait for a World Series title with a short burst of baseball last night as they clinched the crown by completing a rain-suspended 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Delayed Identification Lead
___Sometimes with summary leads, you don't always want to clearly identify the subject (or the who) right away. In the above examples, the who -- Alan Greenspan and the Phillies -- were identified because they were really essential elements of the story. People don't just want to hear that a baseball team won a championship -- they want to know which team. Similarly, when the Federal Reserve chairman speaks, people listen. ___Often, however, the subject doesn't have much name recognition, nor do readers care all that much about the subject's name. So, use a descriptive pronoun to identify the person in the lead. Provide his specific name and title in a later paragraph. ___For example, take this lead I wrote about a school board scuffle for the Providence Journal. Few people can name the members of their local school board, so I didn't include their names in the lead. What made this story newsworthy was the what (the fight). So, I lead with details about that and identified names in a later paragraph: __LINCOLN, R.I. -- A School Committee member has filed an assault complaint against a fellow member, accusing her of grabbing her nose and twisting it following an executive session Thursday night. __Patricia A. Iannelli yesterday alleged in an interview that fellow committee member Lucille J. Mandeville "grabbed my nose and proceeded to twist my nose" following a rancorous discussion during a closed-door School Committee meeting.
___Unless you're writing hard news for a daily newspaper or regularly-updated website, the summary lead just doesn't reel in readers. You need to take a more creative approach. Consider this summary lead: __A late spring snowstorm surprised forecasters and drivers Tuesday afternoon, triggering more than 30 accidents, Cleveland police officials said. ___Instead, you could try a more creative approach, such as the example immediately below.
Short Sentence Lead
___This lead uses one word or a short phrase as a teaser for the rest of the lead. Readers may find this gimmicky, so use this approach sparingly. Here's an example: __One-fifth of an inch.
__That's all the snow it took to trigger more than 30 accidents on local roads yesterday as a late spring storm snuck up on Cleveland motorists.
___This lead makes a comparison between an issue or event you're writing about and something more familiar to the average reader. This approach can work well when you have a complex or foreign matter you want to explain in laymen's terms. Consider:...
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