"Large payouts to the state's retiring higher education employees are under the microscope at the Capitol."
This was the lead used by Minnesota Daily reporter Kevin Burbach in his article on the current legislative investigation into the MnSCU sick leave payouts.
The lead reveals the "what", the "who", and the "where" when it tells us that large payouts are being given to state education employees and that the capitol is suspicious. However, even those details it gave were pretty general, and each point received more elaboration in the paragraphs that followed.
By "payouts", Burbach was talking about payment given to MnSCU employees in exchange for their unused sick leave or days. By "large", he meant $57 million in sick leave and $38 million in vacation time over the last ten years. When he said "the state's higher education employees", he was talking specifically about those in the MnSCU system, not other public school systems, like the University of Minnesota. He also neglected to mention in the lead exactly who had the employees "under the microscope", so to speak. The reader has to continue to the next sentence to discover that the investigators are a subcommittee led by Sen. Mike Parry.
In all, I found this lead to be a decent hard-news style lead. Most of the details listed in the above paragraph would have seemed out of place when thrown into the first sentence of the story, so Burbach was right to leave that out. There was one area, however, where I think that a little bit of elaboration might have helped this lead pack more of a punch. Near the end of the lead, Burbach writes that the employees are "under the microscope at the Capitol". This is a rather vague expression that tells the audience almost nothing about what is actually happening. Not only that, but in this case it is more important for the audience to know who is investigating the issue than where it is being investigated. Using a more active phrase with more specific verbs, such as "a legislative subcommittee is investigating . . .", could really help this lead become a stronger example of a straightforward hard-news lead.