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How leads lead a story

A lead essentially summarizes a story in one or two sentences. It tells you what happened, who it happened to, when it happened, and where it happened. Occasionally a lead will tell the reader why it happened, too. However, in most cases, the “WHAT� is going to determine the direction of a lead.

In order to determine the “WHAT,� you must ask yourself “Where is the action? What is most important in this story?� From here, the summary tends to fall in to place.

It is important to not give too many specifics in a lead; it should be general enough but specific enough to tell the story. The critical information should be detailed, other details can be added further into the story.

As far as names go, you should only include them if the person has name recognition. For example, you would mention Harrison Ford’s name in the lead (if the story was about him); you would not mention Jane Doe’s name.

If the lead is not a straightforward hard-news lead, the reporter used it to grab the reader’s eye. It is important to grab the reader’s attention otherwise they will not read your article.