3 Good, 3 Not-So-Good News Leads

1. Not-So-Good Lead:

 On Nov. 1, 2007, the National Security Agency hosted a talk by Roger Dingledine, principal designer of one of the world’s leading Internet privacy tools. It was a wary encounter, akin to mutual intelligence gathering, between a spy agency and a man who built tools to ward off electronic surveillance.

By:  Barton Gellman, Craig Timberg and Steven Rich of the Washington Post

 This lead is a good example of a feature lead, not a hard news lead like the story is supposed to be.  The headline, “Secret NSA documents show campaign against Tor encrypted network” suggests a hard news story with breaking information and scandal, so the lead should reflect this urgency. Instead, however, the authors opted to begin the story with background information about Tor, its founder, and his relation with the NSA. This information could have come in later in the article with more pressing information in the lead such as the documents in question and how the campaign against Tor was uncovered.


1. Good Lead:

 The Libyan government on Sunday condemned what it called the “kidnapping” of one of its citizens who was taken into custody outside his home in Tripoli in a highly unusual covert operation carried out by the U.S. military.

By: Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post

 This summary lead is a good example of how to give readers the gist of a story without giving away all the information and encouraging them to read more.  The lead has suspense and leaves the readers with plenty of questions to be answered later on in the article. It leaves them with questions such as; Why was the citizen “kidnapped”? What was so unusual about the covert U.S. military operation?  What will Libya and the U.S. do next?


2. Not-So-Good Lead

 When Winnetka police Chief Patrick Kreis asked the Village Board to buy a sport utility vehicle for his department, one trustee questioned how officers can safely chase a fleeing offender while behind the wheel of a bulky, gas-guzzling vehicle.

By: Karen Ann Cullotta of the Chicago Tribune

 While the news story here is definitely geared towards more local, less pressing news, the same rules for a good news lead still apply. This lead completely contradicts the headline which says, “North Shore police adding more SUVs to their fleets”, so when readers read the headline followed by the lead they will be confused as to what stance the paper is trying to take on the story. The lead should be either geared more towards the positive progress the police station is making by adding more vehicles, or the headline should suggest more of a negative, impractical tone in regards to the new SUV. For the sake of consistency and a less confused audience the author should make their stance, if any, on the new vehicles known.


2. Good Lead

 Republican House Speaker John Boehner vowed on Sunday not to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without a “serious conversation” about what is driving the debt, while Democrats said it was irresponsible and reckless to raise the possibility of a U.S. default.

By: (Reuters), from Chicago Tribune

 This lead shows a good example of something vital to every news story; tension.  In this first sentence the author introduces a conflict between the Democrats and Republicans on whether to raise the debt ceiling or not and the consequences that go along with these decisions. The reader is intrigued early on in the story because they want to hear about both sides of the argument and learn how the conflict might play out.


3. Not-So-Good Lead

 The body of a missing 18-year-old Newton woman was found late Saturday night, according to a spokeswoman from Middlesex District attorney’s office.

By: Haven Orecchio-Egresitz of the Boston Globe

 This lead falls short of the basic blind lead required for stories of this nature. It does not name the victim and it answers the questions “what” and “when”, but it fails to answer the “where” which I feel is vital to the story.  Instead, I would have included where the victim was found and under what circumstances she went missing in the lead. The author also attributes the information about where she was found in the lead, while that information could have been added later in the article.


3. Good Lead

Drivers who are texting are twice as likely to crash, or almost crash, as those focused on the road; the National Safety Council estimates that 213,000 U.S. car crashes in 2011 involved drivers who were texting. Concerned Americans have taken up the fight against this peril through laws and public awareness campaigns. But almost all Americans think driving and texting should be illegal–and a huge number do it anyway. Why? As researchers have started studying the problem, it’s emerging that texting and driving is unlike any public safety issue we’ve dealt with before. At its center is a new kind of object—the modern smartphone—that has become embedded in our consciousness in a way that’s changing our behavior on a massive scale.

By: Leon Neyfakh of the Boston Globe

This feature lead is a good example of a current topic that almost everyone who drives has experienced before. Anti-texting and driving campaigns are now common in schools and communities across the country, and this article uses this phenomenon as an opportunity to explain the science behind Americans’ addictions to their phones. The lead opens up with an alarming fact, then introduces a point of conflict between American’s wishes to make texting and driving illegal and their helplessness when to it comes to doing it anyways. The lead successfully intrigues readers and makes them want to read more by talking about interesting and culturally relevant topics.


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