Types of leads

Types Of Lead
By Dr. I. Arul Aram


A lead (or an intro) is the beginning paragraph for a story. It is the hardest part to write as it sets the tone and introduces the reader to the rest of the story. A good lead paints a vivid picture of the story with a few words. Not many reporters can produce sharp, original leads. Writers of little talent and scant judgment load their leads with official sources, official titles, official phrases, even official quotes, and produce long-winding, cumbersome and dull leads. If the lead is not effective, the reader may skip the story. It should be appropriate for the story. The lead must be accurate, short and crisp. The lead should reflect the mood of the story. A routine lead is a short summary of an event. But if the story is interesting, a wide varieties of lead can be tried out. This chapter cites several examples from The Professional Journalist and The AP Writing Handbook.
Suppose a crowd has collected about a wrecked automobile at a street corner outside a park. A passerby stops and taps a truck driver on the arm.

“ Hey, Mac. What happened?”

“Two kids got killed. Car jumped the curb.” 

The truck driver here has done the same job of a reporter in summarising a news event. But a traditional reporter would write like this:
Police Chief J.W. Carmichael announced today that two children were killed outside Prospect Park, at Jackson Ave. and 16th St., N.W., when a “recklessly driven” automobile jumped the curb near where they were playing at 2 p.m. and ran them down.
This 40-word horror could have been avoided by eliminating the name of the police chief, a partial quotation and overloading the lead with too many information.
Such routine events and spot events are normally written in straight or summary leads.
Straight lead (or Summary lead)
A good lead incorporates the inverted pyramid style with the most important facts first. It tells readers what they want to know in a creative manner. If the reader only read the lead, he or she would have a solid grasp of the story. The above accident report can be written in a straight lead. Journalists often resort to summary leads pressed for time.
Two children at play were killed today when a sports car jumped the curb outside Prospect Park and ran them down. Twelve in the group were injured.
Police Chief J.W. Carmichael attributed the tragedy to reckless driving. The driver, slightly injured, was . . .
Compared to news reports, magazines and newspaper features have a great scope for varied leads which appeal to the reader. A capable journalist can always use a variety of leads when situations permit. We shall discuss different types of leads.
Punch lead is a variation of summary lead. Here attention is attracted by concentrating with a brief, to-the-point lead sentence and developing details later in the story.
An attractive 35-year-old woman executive was arrested today on charges of being the “queen” ruling a multi-million-dollar narcotics ring.
Unfolding a bizarre story, police said . . .
Cartridge lead is another variation of summary lead. This lead is brief and contains one single news incident, to be expanded later in the story. Its impact makes it a lead to reserve for important stories.
President Kennedy was slain by an assassin today in a burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas.

(UPI, Nov. 22, 1963)
Besides being a straight lead, this lead brings in action and colour, and makes the lead on a spot story fast moving. Not always a lead has to a straight lead. Despite its usefulness, the inverted pyramid lead is not suitable or desirable for all news situations.
Descriptive lead
A descriptive lead describes how an event happened rather than simply telling what the event is about.
BRIGHTON, England (UPI) — Mrs. Pamela Bransden slowly counted five, snapped into a hypnotic trance, and gave birth to an eight-pound baby. It was as easy as that.
Today she relaxed at her home here, delighted that she has become Britain’s first self-hypnosis mother.
Eyewitness accounts can provide the background for writing lucid descriptions which help the reader to visualise a news situation.
An ominous silence, broken only by the call of a faraway bird, hung over the battle-scarred hills when suddenly an explosion followed by the yells of charging troops smashed the stillness.
The loyalist offensive, launched to clear roving guerrillas . . .
Quotation lead
Quotes frequently are the essential documentation for a lead and should be used immediately after a paraphrase that summarises them. Here paraphrasing the verbatim quotation permits the removal of unnecessary words. But if a verbatim quotation itself is very important or interesting, it can be the lead itself. This lead would add an element of interest such as drama, pathos, humour, astonishment, or some other factor that will reach out to the reader. The brief statement by U.S. President Johnson in 1968 that he would not be a candidate for reelection was widely used as a lead.
Here, however, is a quote lead that takes a lot of explaining.
“I was furious that that disreputable young man had the audacity to sit in my antique rosewood chair.”
That’s how tiny, 82-year-old Louise Freeland today described her brush with a gun-toting escaped convict whom she talked into surrendering to Sheriff’s officers.
Here goes a report on the increase in juvenile crime:
“I’d like to jail parents themselves who are so lax their kids are boosting the crime rate!”
This statement came from Juvenile Court Judge Warren Jones, in releasing a report on the rapid rise in juvenile crime rate in this city.
When a fellow engineering student was murdered by John David in his hostel room in a ragging rage, the lead for a follow-up story was a Biblical quotation found on the door of the culprit.
“Peace unto those who enter here.”
These are the words seen on the door of John David’s room. The irony is that David gave eternal peace to Navukarasu, a fresher.
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, most newspapers led with the first words he spoke:
“A small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind.”
Question lead
Many editors dislike question lead on the basis that people read newspapers to get answers, and not to be asked questions. But if the question is provocative, it may be used as a lead.
What is the first thing that a woman buys when she is advised that she won $2,50,000 in a jingle contest?
Mrs. Jane Roe, informed by XYZ Soaps that her entry took top prize in the nationwide contest, said that she will buy a rhyming dictionary that . . .
Personal lead
It involves the use of the first person singular in the lead. Normally such a use is discouraged except for a columnist or such privileged writers.
(By Reg Murphy, while editor of the Atlanta Constitution, after being released by a kidnapper)
When the tall, heavy, garishly dressed stranger appeared at the door, it was clear this was trouble.
He said, “I’m Lamont Woods,” in a Southern accent quickened by exposure to speech patterns elsewhere.
I let him into my living room for a moment but hustled him out quickly because of the anxiety within him. My wife, Virginia, stayed out of sight but went to the window as we left and noted that he was driving a dark green Ford Torino. She tried for the licence plate but couldn’t see it.
And so I went driving into the Wednesday dusk with a man we both knew was trouble. Neither of us guessed then that it would amount to 49 hours of terror at the hands of a kidnapper telling a bizarre political tale and demanding $7,00,000 ransom . . . .
‘You’ lead (or Direct Address lead)
The `You’ lead is intended to make a personal appeal to the reader involved in a complicated situation. The second-person approach reaches out to involve the reader and capture his/her attention. Here is an example, fairly typical of a trend toward consumerism in the news:
WASHINGTON (UPI) — If you are one of 30 million Americans working for a company with a private pension plan, Congress has given you a new bill of rights. It is the Employment Retirement Income Security Act and it promises that if you have worked long enough to earn a pension, you will receive one at retirement age. Nothing — including bankruptcy, plant closings, dismissal or resignation — can stand in the way.
Let us look at one more example:
Ski fans, here’s your opportunity!
The recent storm deposited five inches of powder snow on Pleasure Mountain and the public ski lift is being operated . . .
Contrast lead
To vary monotony, a saga can be split into two sentences — the first of which refers to the humble beginning and the second to the hero’s latest triumph. When Van Cliburn, the pianist, returned from a musical triumph in Moscow, one reporter wrote:
Harvey Lavan (Van) Cilburn Jr. of Kilgore, Tex., came home from Russia today with 17 pieces of luggage. They bespoke his triumph as pianist in Moscow. He had three when he went over.
Here goes another example:
Richard Roe, who started 47 years ago as a $10-a-week janitor for Consolidated Corporation, today took office as the firm’s $2,63,000-a-year chairman and chief executive officer.
Delayed lead (or suspended interest lead)
A situation can be exploited in an interesting way so that an ordinary item stands out. The reporter delves in several paragraphs to find out what had happened. The reader must get the story by reading to the end of the story.
Dwight David Eisenhower once said he would rather win the Medal of Honour than be president. Dwight Harold Johnson — who was named for Dwight Eisenhower — said once to a friend that “winning the medal has changed my life so much I don’t know if I’ll ever get my head straight again. But I know this. Nobody’s hero forever.”
Friday, April 30, in the drizzle of a Detroit dawn, Dwight Johnson died but not as a hero. He died in the emergency room of a Detroit hospital with three bullet wounds in his side and one in his head. He was shot, according to police, by a store owner he had tried to rob.
Here goes another example:
Bill Turner, 8, received a red coaster wagon for Christmas and it led to problems.
This morning, while leaving for school, he noticed that it was missing from his front yard.
Two hours later his mother, Mrs. John Turner, received a call from school officials asking why Bill was absent.
Shocked and fearing that his son was hurt, she called police, who contacted hospitals and searched the banks of the Red River. They prepared to drag the waters.
At that moment, they say a boy pulling a red wagon through a nearby field.
Bill explained to his mother and police that a friend told him other boys had taken the wagon to a field two miles from his house. He planned to get it on his way to school.
The youngster said he went to the wrong field and lost track of time because he was so intent on finding the wagon.
Blind identification lead
If the person concerned is not well known in the community, his/her name is less important than other salient facts that identify the person. eg. “a 80-year-old woman” instead of her name.
A police inspector’s son was attacked with a knife by some miscreants on Mount Road this evening.
The victim Pratap Daniel, 20, has been admitted to a private hospital and his condition is critical.
Anecdotal lead
The anecdotal lead is used when the anecdote is bright and applicable and not too wasteful of space. It brings the reader quickly into a news situation that might not attract his attention if it were routinely written. Here is one that began a series on divorce in the U.S.
David and Kay Craig’s two-year-old marriage is a second one for both and their story is one that is being repeated with increasing frequency across the country.
Each was married for the first time at 18. David’s marriage lasted through five years and two children. Kay’s first marriage ended in divorce after a year and eight months.
The Craigs (not their real name) are among the 13 million Americans who, according to the Census Bureau, at one time or another have been through a divorce. More than four million Americans currently list their marital status as divorced. The rate of divorces in this country has been and still is steadily increasing.
Gag (or funny) lead
A journalist who writes a funny story put up the saddest face in a newsroom. Journalistic homour requires the skilled and practice. Here is how an AP reporter wrote when a woman broke her leg trying to climb out of a locked London public toilet:
LONDON — What’s a lady do when trapped in a loo?
Literary allusion lead
Parallelling the construction of a nursery rhyme or part of a well-known literary creation can add to variety.


Editorial Department of a Newspaper?

(i) The News Desk:
All stories destined for the newspaper, whether they come from the typewriters of reporters and rewrite men or from the several wire services, teleprinters and other sources-require editing. This duty falls chiefly on the copyreader who sits on the horseshoe shape table called the desk. The city editor and other editors read all the copy.
(i) Clearness:
The reader must have no difficulty in finding out what the story means.

(ii) Condensation:
The copyreader must cut and condense each story to the length assigned to it. Condensation applies to words and not to ideas. Verbal frills may go but the meaning must remain. Condensation is done by substituting short words for long ones-even smaller words tor bigger ones; for example, ‘try’ in place of ‘endeavour’.

(iii) Arrangement:
The copyreader’s notion of arrangement differs from that of the literary man. It is based on the convention of the Mead’ which puts the important parts first and the least important parts last. It also makes for the sequence of ideas.

(iv) Style:
The copyreader’s style has nothing to do with literary quality. It refers to particular rules which his paper has laid down for spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, abbreviation, use of numerals and the like.

The copyreader edits his copy along the foregoing principles by means of a set of standardised copy reading symbols, which tell the typesetter what section to omit, when to transpose, when to spell a word out and when to contract. He then proceeds to check the copy paragraphs and if the story has sufficient length, supplies sub­heads.

The subhead is a line to be printed in a type which differs from the body of the story/article and is used to break up the too solid look of a long column. The best rule is to paragraph for ideas and not for mechanical reasons. Copyreaders try to avoid being mechanical when it comes to the subhead.

The look of the column demands a sub-head every two sticks or a stick and a half at least, or say about every 300 or 350 words.

The copyreader aims to have his subheads make divisions in the subject, each division meant for something new, and not merely for repeating what has been already told.

The copyreader usually faces three problems: (i) to tighten up the story and thereby speed up the action; (ii) to cut out the excess matter and bromides; and (iii) to reduce the story so that a telegra­phic editor could splash it in a page-one box if he chose to handle it that way.

The Art of the Headline:
Although the copyreader works anonymously, when he constructs a good headline, he feels the pleasure of a creative artist. With short words and in short compass, he can tell a whole story. He knows that the headline must fulfil two requirements-it must attract attention to the story; it must announce the story’s main facts. He sees to it that each headline he concocts does both.


A newsroom is the central place where journalists—reporters, editors, and producers, along with other staffers—work to gather news to be published in a newspaper and/or an online newspaper or magazine, or broadcast on radio, television, or cable. Some journalism organizations refer to the newsroom as the city room

The concept of “newsroom” may also now be employed by some public relations practitioners, as representatives of companies and organizations, with the intent to influence or create their own “media”.
Reporters, editors and staff at work in the newsroom of The Times-Picayune, 1900

In a print publication’s newsroom, reporters sit at desks, gather information, and write articles or stories, in the past on typewriters, in the 1970s sometimes on specialized terminals, then after the early 1980s on personal computers or workstations. These stories are submitted to editors, who usually sit together at one large desk, where the stories are reviewed and possibly rewritten. Reporters generally used the inverted pyramid method for writing their stories, although some journalistic writing used other methods; some of the work of Tom Wolfe is an example of reporting that did not follow that style.
Once finished, editors write a headline for the story and begin to lay it out (see publishing) on a newspaper or magazine page. Editors also review photographs, maps, charts or other graphics to be used with a story. At many newspapers, copy editors who review stories for publication work together at what is called a copy desk, supervised by a copy desk chief, night editor, or news editor. Assignment editors, including the city editor, who supervise reporters’ work, may or may not work with the copy desk.
How a newsroom is structured and functions depends in part on the size of the publication and when it is published, especially if it is a daily newspaper, which can either be published in the morning (an a.m. cycle) or the evening (a p.m. cycle). Most daily newspapers follow the a.m. cycle.
In almost all newspaper newsrooms, editors customarily meet daily with the chief editor to discuss which stories will be placed on the front page, section front pages, and other pages. This is commonly called a “budget meeting” because the main topic of the meeting is the budgeting or allocation of space in the next issue.
Newsrooms often have an assignment desk where staffers monitor emergency scanners, answer telephone calls, faxes and e-mails from the public and reporters. The assignment desk is also responsible for assigning reporters to stories or deciding what is covered and what isn’t. In many newsrooms, the assignment desk is raised a step or two above the rest of the newsroom, allowing staffers who work at the desk to see everyone in the newsroom.
In some newsrooms, a teamwork-integrated system called the Maestro Concept has been applied to improve time management of the newsroom. This maestro system is a method to improve the presentation of stories to busy readers in today’s media. Teamwork and collaboration bring a story to life from an initial idea by integrating reporting with photographs, design and information graphics.
Broadcast newsrooms

The newsroom of a broadcast television station, WTVJ, Miami, Florida

Broadcast newsrooms are very similar to newspaper newsrooms. The two major differences are that these newsrooms include small rooms to edit video or audio and that they also exist next to the radio or television studio.
Changes in newsrooms

The modern American newsroom has gone through several changes in the last 50 years, with computers replacing typewriters and the Internet replacing Teletype terminals. More ethnic minority groups as well as women are working as reporters and editors, including many managerial positions. Many newspapers have internet editions, and at some, reporters are required to meet tighter deadlines to have their stories posted on the newspaper website, even before the print edition is printed and circulated. However, some things haven’t changed; many reporters still use paper reporter’s notebooks and the telephone to gather information, although the computer has become another essential tool for reporting.


A newspaper supplement, often a weekly section of its parent, usually has a tabloid or Sunday magazine format and covers wide-ranging and less time-critical subjects, as in The American Weekly, the 2004 version of Life, and Parade.


It is provided because other press or media documents such as media advisories and press releases are necessarily kept short and succinct. The backgrounder provides more information to the journalist or media outlet without compromising the readability or standard format of the media advisory or press release.

What is neutrality bias (especially in journalism)?

Neutrality bias is the idea that some journalists or news outlets are so concerned with appearing as neutral that they forget about objectivity. Objectivity is not neutrality. Neutrality bias means giving all sides equal time, present all sides with equal praise and/or criticism, even when there is a side that is objectively more based on reality/facts etc. It can also mean not correcting factual untruths or errors on the grounds of giving everyone an opportunity to express their opinion.
In this Secular Talk video, Kyle Kulinski describes different types of media biases. It’s a progressive news show, but whether or not you agree with his ideas.

For instance, neutrality bias happens when you get two scientists to debate about climate change, one saying that it is caused by men and the other saying that it doesn’t exist or has nothing to do with human activity, even though over 95% of scientists agree that it is in fact manmade. John Oliver did a Last Week Tonight segment about this specific scenario:

Active audience theory (mcs)

Active audience theory argues that media audiences do not just receive information passively but are actively involved, often unconsciously, in making sense of the message within their personal and social contexts.[1] Decoding of a media message may therefore be influenced by such things as family background, beliefs, values, culture, interests, education and experiences.
Other theories and models are compatible with active audience theory, including the Encoding/Decoding model and the Uses and gratifications theory, which states that audiences are actively involved in determining what media they engage with and how, in order to gratify specific needs or desires.[2] The Mass media article refers to a Culturalist theory, however there is little evidence of its use in relation to (mass) media.
Active audience theory is seen as a direct contrast to the Effects traditions, however Jenny Kitzinger argues against discounting the effect or influence media can have on an audience, acknowledging that an active audience does not mean that media effect or influence is not possible.[3] Supporting this view, other theories combine the concepts of active audience theory and the effects model, such as the two step flow theory where Katz and Lazarsfeld argue that persuasive media texts are filtered through opinion leaders who are in a position to ‘influence’ the targeted audience through social networks and peer groups.

When you decode a message, you extract the meaning of that message in ways that make sense to you. Decoding has both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication: Decoding behavior without using words means observing body language and its associated emotions. For example, some body language signs for when someone is upset, angry, or stressed would be a use of excessive hand/arm movements, red in the face, crying, and even sometimes silence. Sometimes when someone is trying to get a message across to someone, the message can be interpreted differently from person to person. Decoding is all about the understanding of what someone already knows, based on the information given throughout the message being received. Whether
there is a large audience or exchanging a message to one person, decoding is the process of obtaining, absorbing, understanding, and sometimes using the information that was given throughout a verbal or non-verbal message.
For example, since advertisements can have multiple layers of meaning, they can be decoded in various ways and can mean something different to different people.[2] Hall claims that the decoding subject can assume three different positions: Dominant/hegemonic position, negotiated position, and oppositional position.
In the process of encoding, the sender (i.e. encoder) uses verbal (e.g. words, signs, images, video) and non-verbal (e.g. body language, hand gestures, face expressions) symbols for which he or she believes the receiver (that is, the decoder) will understand. The symbols can be words and numbers, images, face expressions, signals and/or actions. It is very important how a message will be encoded; it partially depends on the purpose of the message.[4]

Meaning of verbal communication

When messages or information is exchanged or communicated through words is called verbal communication. Verbal communication may be two types: written and oral communication. Verbal communication takes place through face-to-face conversations, group discussions, counseling, interview, radio, television, calls, memos, letters, reports, notes, email etc.

  • Meaning of non-verbal communication

When messages or information is exchanged or communicated without using any spoken or written word is known as nonverbal communication. Non-verbal communication (NVC) is usually understood as the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages.

Non-verbal communication is a powerful arsenal in the face-to-face communication encounters, expressed consciously in the presence of others and perceived either consciously or unconsciously. Much of non-verbal communication is unintentional people are not even aware that they are sending messages. Non-verbal communication takes place though gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, physical proximity, touching etc.

So, non-verbal communication is the exchanged of information or message between two or more persons through gestures, facial expressions eye contact, proximity, touching etc. and without using any spoken or written word.