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Lead Analysis

“Chicago authorities asked Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to issue a disaster declaration after rainfall Saturday in the Windy City broke a single-day record that had stood for more than two decades.? (CNN)

This excerpt from a CNN report is an example of a straightforward, hard-news lead. In one sentence, this lead is able to cover all of the important points of the story in a clear and concise way.

The lead does not give information that is too detailed. For example, it does not list the names of the Chicago authorities or the specific amount of rainfall. Those facts can be revealed later in the story.

Instead, this lead made known only the general facts that give the reader just enough information to know what the rest of the article is about. The lead is able to accomplish this by covering the what, where, when, and who of the story in one sentence. The “who? is identified by addressing the “Chicago authorities? and “Gov. Rod Blagajevich.? The “what? is covered by telling the reader that authorities asked the governor “to issue a disaster declaration.? It also goes a little further, identifying why the declaration was made- a record breaking rainfall. The “where? is covered with “Chicago? and “Windy City?, along with the “when? of the story, “Saturday.?

This lead does a good job of finding the most important feature of the story, and then summarizing it.

Finally, what makes this sentence a good lead is that it is timely, in that the rainfall occurred only yesterday.