In journalism, the lead is the foundation, beginning, and the most important part in news and news writing – all of the most essential information are conveyed and structured in a single word, sentence, or paragraph by which the ideas, content, and flow of the news story are found within the lead. In constructing a good lead, the journalist must be able to meet objectives such as providing all fundamental information in a concise and clear manner and making sure to create/mark a good impression to the audience in order to entice their interest and attract their attention. Its function is to introduce the article by supplying answers to the major classifications which are the 5W questions “who, what, when, where, why” and “how."
Conventional/Summary Lead is commonly and traditionally used in journalism especially in straight news as it directly provides a summary of the overall content of the story in just a few words. The who lead pertains to the prominent person or subjects of the article. This is when the person or subject is the basis of importance in the news story. The what lead refers to the event, situation, or incident that is more important than the person(s) or other parts involved. The where lead is used when the place is unique or significant and no prominent people are included in the story. The when lead is used to inform or presume information such as due dates, holidays, and significant days. The why lead pertains or is used when the reason is the prominent or unique aspect of the article. The how lead is used when the methods, techniques, strategies, and manner used in achieving the article is in a way somewhat unnatural or unordinary.
Grammatical-Beginning Lead is when a phrase or clause is used to introduce the information and emphasize the feature. It is a kind of grammatical form by which the important 5W’s are structured in the main clause – not in the introductory clause which is just a modifying feature. Among these kinds of grammatical-beginning leads are:
Pre-positional lead is when the phrase is introduced by a preposition.
With a borrowed pen, a simple notebook, slippers, and both perseverance and dedication, 13-year-old Rene Salonga, an elementary student from Don Placido Mapa Memorial School graduated 6th grade with high honors on April 25, 2020.
The infinitive-phrase lead begins with the sign of the infinitive “to” plus the main verb.
To consider the events of this week, the school administration would like to inform you that the exams will be moved to the third week of September.
Participial-phrase lead is introduced by the present or past participle form of the verb.
Attending the inter-school poster making competition and representing the La Consolacion College – Bais City institution, 9th-grade student Michelle Anne Diaz set her eyes on the prize. (the present participle)
Gerundial-phrase lead is introduced by a gerund – a noun that is formed by adding the “-ing” suffix to the verb. The nouns will be subjects, subject complements, or objects in the gerundial-phrase lead.
Ranking first place in track and field during the regions’ sports meet was Maria’s best achievement of her junior year in Ramon High School.
Clause lead starts with an independent/subordinate clause; noun, adjectival, adverbial clause.
Chris and Alex announced their second pregnancy.
A Novelty Lead is best used in writing news features. It is written in a structure or strategy which focuses on attracting attention or on carrying out a specific purpose. Among these kinds of novelty leads are:
Astonisher lead is also called cartridge lead. It starts with an interjection or an exclamatory sentence. The essence of the article or story is summed up in a startling or often contradictory approach.
“Observe social distancing or stay at home!”
This was the statement released on Wednesday morning by social media influencer Pyper So as a response to the breach of public safety protocol observed in the parts of the Philippines.
Contrast lead describes two extremes or opposites for emphasis. The sharper the contrast, the more effective the lead will be.
Nine months ago, before the national selection for the MUP, Rabiya Mateo won the Miss Iloilo crown. Eight months later, she is the new Miss Universe Philippines who will be representing the country for the prestigious international competition.
Epigram lead opens by quoting a common expression, verse, or epigram, at least familiar in the locality.
In the heat of the moment, Riane Manaban, a 23 yr old fresh graduate from National College, cried with joy upon seeing her name on the results of the board exam passers for the Licensure Examination for Teachers 2019.
Picture lead describes a person, place, or event while creating a mental picture of the subject matter in the mind of the reader.
Example: The newly elected classroom president, Hanna Asuncion, is a tall morena who has long curly brown hair.
Background lead is somewhat similar to the picture lead, except it intricately describes the setting as more important than that of the event or the person involved.
The COSA room was turned into a spooky haunted maze on October 29, 2019, during the school’s Halloween special. The room was decorated to resemble a creepy old house with only a small source of light from the hallway, cobwebs dangling from the ceiling, random mannequins standing on the sides, eerie music playing in the background, and students dressed as ghosts and monsters prepared to scare those who entered.
Descriptive lead is used when comparatively few descriptive words can vividly formulate imagery.
Dressed in a simple dress and lips painted red, Belle Tamayo presented her speech on elderly support on Saturday evening during the World Federation’s Union of Help.
Parody lead consists of a parody or satiric imitation of a well-known song, poem, or line.
You are what you eat
Josefa Roberta, a woman who follows a strict diet of eating just pig meat was interviewed about how she maintained her physique during Friday morning at a zoom meeting.
Punch lead is rarely used. It consists of a short, forceful, or explosive word or expression designed to surprise the reader.
“Ninoy is Dead!”
Benigno Aquino Jr., a Filipino senator was assassinated on Sunday, August 21, 1983, on the tarmac of Manila International Airport shortly after his arrival back to the country.
Quotation lead features a short, interesting quote or remark, usually direct words by a speaker or source that is set in quotation marks. These words may be excerpts or quotes from an interview or speech.
“Don’t be afraid of what people have to say, be afraid of their silence. If they have nothing to speak about, that means you’re not giving them anything worthy to talk about.” Danica Saycon’s response on an interview with Balita Ngayon! was, according to her, advice for the youth to keep using their voices and platforms in fighting for what’s right.
One word lead consists of only one word; explosive and interesting.
“Inspirational.” Pablo Manalo, a 24-year-old Filipino writer has just won the Hemingway Award for Debut Novel for his book “The Sea of Poverty”, a work of fiction surrounding the indigence in the central parts of the Philippines. Pablo, despite growing up with financial problems has always been dedicated to pursuing his career in writing.
Question lead begins by asking the reader a certain question.
“Are Elves true?”
Diego Lazaro captured an image of a seemingly small human like creature on his mobile phone during an Earthquake that shook Pampanga on the 3rd of August 2018.
There are many kinds of leads and it all depends on the journalist with which is better suited for the theme, audience and purpose of the article. Choosing and writing the lead is neither simple nor easy and it relies on the journalist’s style, in the field of journalism however, it is common and usual to follow certain tips in order to construct a good lead:
1. The 5W and 1H questions – ‘Who, what, when, where, why and how’ are the fundamental elements in news writing and is what structures the lead. The journalist must be able to provide answers to these questions as these are vital information that readers must know.
2. Avoid Cliché’s and Puns – Regardless of choosing a humorous tone, journalists must avoid being over the top or “corny/cheesy” in order to engage the readers with the article. Bad wordplay can be unprofessional which readers wouldn’t want to trust.
3. Keep it Simple, Keep it Short – When the answers to the fundamental questions are concisely constructed, that means that the article has a good lead. In keeping it simple, the journalist must use easy to understand words that are full of depth and should avoid redundancy.
4. Write in Active Voice – The journalist must use strong verbs and avoid all forms of verbs “to be.” According to the renowned author Stephen King “with an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence” this for me proves that passive voice results to timid, informal and incomplete reporting.
5. Understand the Context – The lead must be relevant to the other parts of the article and must be connected to the title and content of the news story.
As much as other journalists are able to provide help to fellow journalists by giving certain tips, this advice is typically just that – simple advice. Journalism is a formal and professional area which means that rules need to be mandated and followed. News writing follows strict rules and the parts of each element also contains their own set of rules which coordinates to the overall structure and form of the article. In writing a lead, journalists need to follow the following rules:
1. Honesty – Accuracy and truthfulness in the lead and the article are the main promises of the journalist when providing information. The journalist must be able to deliver what is promised in the lead.
2. Present the Subject/Conflict and Be Direct to the Point – The content and message of the article must be given directly on the first paragraph or the lead as readers do not have all the time in the world to identify the fundamental information in the last parts of the article. This is the focus or message of the overall article which draws the attention and gives information to the readers.
3. Adhere to the 5W and 1H – ‘Who, what, when, where, why and how’ must always be provided in the lead. Again, they are the most important elements in the article, thus, they must be constructed concisely and completely in the lead.
4. Follow the ABC’s of Journalism – Accuracy, brevity and clarity and so on must be used a basis for writing the lead for these are vital in making the article complete and impactful as they are the principles in news writing that must always be applied/contained in putting words together for the article.
5. Use a Formal Language & Be Professional – In writing the lead, the journalist must be formal and professional in providing information. The use of informal and casual language will only make the article disreputable and will only create a bad impression on the readers. It is important to address the information to the readers using a professional and well mannered language.
6. Avoid Grammatical Errors – A minor mistake in the lead is a flaw to the overall parts and structure of the article. The journalist must always check the spelling and words used in order to avoid grammatical errors.
7. Use Active Voice – Active voice creates a faster-moving narrative which engages readers to continue reading. It also is more concise and concrete as it uses less wordy sentences which is easier to understand and more direct.
8. Double Check – Always double check the lead and see to it if it needs changes or parts that need to be revised. Possible grammatical errors or spellings will be changed if the journalist double checks the article before finalizing it.