Finding leads.

For an assignment in a journalism class that I’m currently taking, we’ve been tasked with finding 5 hard news leads, and talk about why we think they’re effective.

What would I be doing if I didn’t use an example from The Towerlight? A lead from Jonathan Munshaw:

University president Maravene Loeschke announced via email today that she is taking a leave of absence from her position until December.”

I like this lead because of its simplicity. The Towerlight is written for a niche audience — Towson University and the surrounding community — so anyone reading this lead will know which university is being referred to. Munshaw didn’t complicate the lead, and its simplicity and effectiveness would allow for readers to quickly ascertain the relevant information.

From John Wagner at the Washington Post:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Saturday won praise from fellow Democrats for his record on immigration issues as he appeared at a campaign rally in Chicago for Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).”

Don’t get me wrong, I like leads that have strong hooks, but I also like leads that could double as a news crawl, or a push update on your iPhone. If someone wanted to, they would be able to read the lead and get all the information they wanted (those less familiar with O’Malley’s probably intentions to run for president would be able to grab that information in the next paragraph down).

From Diaa Hadid, of the AP, hosted on the Boston Globe:

Syria launched a series of airstrikes targeting a stronghold of the Islamic State extremist group on Saturday, killing at least 29 people, most of whom died when one of the missiles slammed into a crowded bakery, activists said.”

Even moreso than the O’Malley lead, this one packs all the vital detail right into the start of the article. I dunno. Maybe I’m not thinking enough about this? I think that if you can get all the critical information into the first sentence of a news story and leave a reader with questions that are only incidental, and not crucial, you’ve done your job as a news reporter.

From Amanda Barnett at CNN:

“A meteorite crashed down in Managua, Nicaragua, late Saturday night, causing a loud explosion and leaving a crater 39 feet (12 meters) across, government officials said, according to The Associated Press. No damage or injuries were reported.”

The most effective aspect of this lead is, frankly, that it’s interesting. It’s not often that meteorites crash down near populated areas and get written about — so by it’s unique nature, this lead makes me want to keep reading.

From Burgess Everett at Politico:

“Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.”

I’m going to go on a limb and say that this one works because it’s unusual, too — readers aren’t used to Republicans and Democrats agreeing on much of anything, and I know that this headline makes me want to keep reading to see what could possibly have caused such a situation.

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