Writing summary leads JOU 2100
Key concepts • Summary lead definition • Time element • Verb tense • Attribution definition • Prominence in the lead • Attribution punctuation • Inverted pyramid • The 5 Ws • Writing basic news leads • Leads that succeed
The five W’s Facts usually fall into
The five W’s The WHO The WHAT • Readers love stories that focus on people. • WHO keeps it real. • Who’s involved? • Who’s affected? • Who’s going to benefit? • Who’s getting screwed? • WHAT gives news its substance. • Stories become dry and dull if they focus too much on WHAT. • Need WHO.
The five W’s The WHEN The WHERE • Timeliness essential to every story. • When events happened or will happen. • How long they lasted or will last. • The closer the event, the more relevant it is for readers. • Many stories require supplements. • Map • Diagram • Photo
The five W’s The WHY • The HOW • Finding explanations difficult. • The WHY is what makes news meaningful. • Often requires detailed explanation. • Sometimes omitted to save space. • Readers love “how-to” stories.
The inverted pyramid Newswriting format summarizes most important facts at story’s start This is the lead, which summarizes the story’s most important facts This paragraph adds more details or background This paragraph adds even more details This adds more details More details
The inverted pyramid The typical news story uses the inverted pyramid • Summarize first. • Explain later. • Resolve everything in the beginning. • Allows editors to trim stories from bottom. So should you use this format for every story? No. It works best for hard news.
The inverted pyramid Why writing a good lead actually matters to readers • If a story takes too long to make sense… • Readers flee like rats from a sinking ship. • A summary lead is a diagram for the story to come.
Writing basic news leads How to write an effective news lead • Collect all your facts. • Lead should summarize. • The more you know, the easier it is to summarize. • Sum it up. Boil it down. • List who, what, when, where, why of story.
Writing basic news leads How to write an effective news lead • Prioritize the five W’s. • Lead contains the most important facts. • Which of the key facts deserves to start the first sentence? • Rethink. Revise. Rewrite. • Is it clear? • Is it active? • Is it wordy? • Is it compelling?
Writing basic news leads How to write an effective news lead • Writing leads often a process of trial and error. • Try different approaches. • Create different leads using the… • Who. • What. • When. • Where. • Why.
Summary lead lecture points • Mission: Invite the reader in and give the gist of the story. • Works best with hard news/breaking news. • Answers key questions such as who, what, where, when, why and how. • 35 word limit • One sentence. One sentence. One sentence!! • A good lead can serve as a diagram for a hard news story • Clear, concise writing is the key to success
Summary leads in the news… • A man hiding in the attic of a St. Petersburg home opened fire on officers trying to arrest him Monday morning, sparking a firefight that left two police officers dead and a U.S. Marshal wounded. • (35 words)
Summary lead rules • One-sentence • No more than 35 words. No less than 15. • Usually past tense verbs • Concise, clear • Prominence dictates if a person’s name is used in the lead. • Answers as many questions as possible: Who, what, where, why, when, how…
Summary leads in the news • Heath Slocum sank a 21-foot putt for par on the final hole for a dramatic win at The Barclays in Jersey City, N.J. on Sunday. • (25)
A summary lead • Hundreds of people hunkered down in emergency shelters and thousands stuck it out in darkened homes after a winter storm that left 54 dead in nine states Wednesday. (27 words)
Leads answer key questions • Think about which questions are answered in this lead. • Shattered mausoleum walls were discovered Tuesday morning at historic St. Michael's Cemetery in downtown Pensacola, and slabs were overturned on above-ground tombs in what could have been an attempt to unearth the dead. (33)
Leads answer key questions… • Shattered mausoleum walls were discovered Tuesday morning at historic St. Michael's Cemetery in downtown Pensacola, and slabs were overturned on above-ground tombs in what could have been an attempt to unearth the dead. (33) • What: shattered walls • Where: St. Michael’s • When: Tuesday morning • Why: attempt to unearth the dead…(creepy)
Summary lead focus • Figuring out key questions to be answered.. • What happened? When? Where? • You must determine the focus • A fast-moving string of thunderstorms toppled trees, flooded streets and prompted a tornado warning Tuesday in northwest Florida. (Just 18 words answers what, where and when questions)
Summary leads: Finding focus • This lead focuses on who, what, when and where • Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and conservationist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. (26)
Lead rules • 35 words • Past tense verb • Answers as many questions as possible • Which questions are answered here? Prosecutors asked a judge Tuesday to impose the maximum sentence on a couple found guilty of planting a human fingertip in a bowl of Wendy's chili in a scheme to extort money from the restaurant chain. (35)
Prominence This lead identifies Naomi because she has prominence (and a bad temper) • Naomi Campbell apologized yesterday for hitting her maid in the head with a cell phone, but said it was an accident. (21)
Note the boys aren’t identified by name… An early morning joy ride on a train engine in Nelsonville, Ohio- with the whistle blowing, ended back in juvenile detention for two boys who walked away from an unlocked detention home, authorities said. (The boys don’t have prominence so their full names aren’t used in the lead)
Rules • It’s one-sentence, Clarice. • Unless a person has prominence…they are not identified in the lead. • FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German cannibal who killed a man who wanted to be eaten told a court Monday that he had only been carrying out his victim's wishes and had not expressly sought to kill him. (34 words)
Prominence rule • A woman charged as an accessory in the Billings double homicide was arrested Thursday on a bigamy charge and released from jail again. (23)
Summary lead: Attribution • Attribution is nearly always placed at the end of the lead set off by a comma. • Definition of Attribution: Who said it? Who is the source? Attribution is underlined in the following lead. • A 2½-year-old Gulf Breeze girl nearly drowned Sunday at Johnson Beach, a Gulf Islands National Seashore park ranger said.(19)
Summary lead: Time element • After the verb works well…usually the best place, but sometimes after the object or end of the sentence is best. Time element NEVER begins a summary lead. Celebrity Paris Hilton was arrested in Hollywood early on Thursday on suspicion of drunken driving, Los Angeles police said.(18)
Time element • After the verb works best … most of the time. • Sometimes you have to put it at the end of a sentence too. • Or after the object • Or where it reads best • But never at the beginning of a lead • Wrong: Tuesday a man was found dead at the beach. • Correct: A man was found dead on Tuesday at the beach.
Avoid cluttered messes like this… • CINCINNATI (AP) - Democratic Sen. John Kerry, at a site where President Bush made his case that Iraq was a threat to the United States, argued on Wednesday that the president left a trail of broken promises on the path to war and has squandered money that could be put to better use for health care, education and jobs. (56 awful, dreadful words.)
Fixing cluttered mess… • (AP) - Democratic Sen. John Kerry, at a site where President Bush made his case that Iraq was a threat to the United States, argued on Wednesday that the president left a trail of broken promises on the path to war and has squandered money that could be put to better use for health care, education and jobs. (56 awful, dreadful words.) • Democratic Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday that President George Bush left a trail of broken promises on the path to war and squandered billions of dollars. (26) • Many of the details in the other lead can be used in the next two paragraphs of the news story…no need putting them in the lead.
What can go wrong… • Run-on sentences derail summary leads all the time when two sentences make up one lead. • They are called fused sentences or comma splices…here’s a fused sentence. (underlined) • Sixteen cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. freight train carrying hazardous chemicals jumped the tracks Wednesday morning 100 miles northeast of Los Angelesno one was injured.
Fixing a run-on sentence • Fix with a coordinating conjunction (but) • Sixteen cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. freight train carrying hazardous chemicals jumped the tracks Wednesday morning 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles butno one was injured. • Lesson: Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read. (LOL)
What can go wrong… • Don’t use semi-colons to join two complete clauses in your summary lead. • Use connecting conjunctions instead: And, but… • Wrong: A freight train derailed Wednesday morning; a broken rail is suspected. • Better: A freight train derailed Wednesday morning and a broken rail is suspected.