By Dr. Sarah Chidiebere Joe
As is detailed in my earlier note (How to Write a News Report – Part 1), a News Report is made up of six key elements – Headline (summary of the story), Byline (name of writer), Placeline (story location), Lead (most important aspects of the story), Body (details of the story), and Quotation (what someone said).
The Lead is a most critical component of every news report. It is the opening paragraph of a news story but may be buried in the middle sections of other types of media messages such as Features. It is usually written to grab the attention of the reader and ranges between 30 and 40 objective and factual words/content.
A Lead is typically written following the 5Ws (WHAT, WHEN, WHO, WHERE, WHY) AND 1H (HOW) rule. This approach is attributed to Thomas Wilson, an English Rhetorician in his discussion of the “seven circumstances” of medieval rhetoric.
- Who ( who is involved?)
- Where ( where did it happen?)
- What ( what is happening?)
- When (when did it happen?)
- Why (why did it happen?)
- Also, how ( how it happened?)
For instance, in crime reporting, a writer needs to ask
- What crime was committed?
- When and where the crime took place? (And does the timing and location of the crime provide more insights regarding the nature of the crime itself?)
- How did the crime take place? (What methods were employed? Weapons used? Etc.)
- Why did the criminal commit the offence? (Any motives? Is it a repeat offence?)
- Who committed the crime? (who is responsible?)
In writing the lead, most writers follow the Subject-Verb-Object sentence structure. This approach is useful for writing clear and straightforward leads. It also helps in using Active rather than Passive voice.
In the Active voice format, the Subject performs the action, the Subject acts on the Verb. Active voiced sentences have a direct and clear tone.
|Active voice||Passive voice|
|I want ice cream now||I’ve wanted ice cream for a long time|
|The cat chased the ball||The ball is being chased by the cat|
In Passive voice format, the Subject receives the action from the Verb. Passive voiced sentences are often lengthier and detached. They often contain two types of verbs: a conjugated form of the “to be” verb and the main verb’s past participle. It also contains a preposition. For instance:
Dr. Sarah is (conjugated form of “to be”) beloved (past participle of belove) by (preposition) students.
Kinds of Leads
Summary Lead – A summary lead as the name goes, conveys the main idea behind a story by employing the 5Ws and 1H rule. Example:
The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has faulted the Federal Government’s $1 million donations to Afghanistan’s Taliban government, saying the move made no economic sense.
Descriptive Lead – This type of lead is picturesque in nature and often applied to provide an explanation about a person, scene, or event. Example:
An airstrike by the Nigerian Air Force targeting ‘bandits’ has killed six children and wounded others by mistake in Niger State.
Question Lead – This type of lead poses a question in ways that will arouse the interest of the reader. Example:
What happened in Nigeria 20 October 2020? How will this event shape the upcoming elections?
Punch/Caption Lead – This type of lead is employed to create a maximum impact. Example:
The President is dead.
Quotation Lead – Quotes are used to lend credibility to a news story and are often drawn from reliable news sources. Quotes used in leads can be carefully paraphrased but not at the cost of the intent or meaning of the message.
“My plane is taking off without me,” shouted a student pilot to his instructor as he dashed down the runway after the ELAN 140.
Contrast Lead – The contrast lead compares two opposite or opposing sides. For instance, poverty and wealth, black and white, stress and relaxation.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike now for the fifth time in five years, but the city’s 62,000 public school students have been showing up to class.
Staccato Lead – This type of lead is like the descriptive lead but applies when time is the focus, and the most important information is in the last line. To communicate the progression in time, a short burst of phrases with recurring punctuation marks are used. For example:
Midnight on the Choba bridge… a scream … a shot … a splash … a second shot … a third shot. This morning, police recovered the bodies of two men from the Choba River. A bullet wound was found in the chest of each of the victims.
You lead – The You lead can adopt a question or quotation format but addresses the reader directly. For instance:
If you are one of the 200 million Nigerians praying for a peaceful 2023 election, the Lord has answered your prayer.
Blind Lead – This is used when the WHO element is less important than other elements of the story. For instance:
A police inspector’s son was attacked with a machete by some miscreants on Aba Road this evening.
ASSIGNMENT: Please craft a new Headline and Lead for the below story. Also identify the source or sources in the story.
Leave your answers in the comment section. Please include your First and Surname.
Secure our colleague’s release or risk strike, Abia doctors tell Ikpeazu
The Abia State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, on Friday, protested the abduction of their senior colleague, Professor Uwadinachi Iweha, and urged Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to assist in securing his release.
According to the state chairman, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, Professor Iweha was kidnapped in front of his country home in Umuajameze Umuopara in the Umuahia South Local Government Area of the state on the June 6, 2022. Okwuonu sad, “Up till now, nothing has been heard about him.”
In their peaceful protest carrying placards with different inscriptions, including “Dr Iweha should be released”, Doctors’ lives matter”, among others, the doctors demanded for the immediate release of the victim.
Dr. Okwuonu told the governor, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Okey Ahaiwe, that “We are here to register our displeasure over the kidnapping of our senior colleague,” adding that the incident was “depressing and dehumanising.”
According to him, arising from their meeting held at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, the doctors demanded for Iweha’s immediate release, stating that “if not, in the next 48 hours, we will embark on strike.”
They also requested that the federal government and state government should prevent further occurrence.
(This story is culled from the PUNCH Newspaper and used here for only instructional purpose)