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This is the “Lead” I’m talking about

According to Melvin Mencher, author of News reporting and writing, there are two kinds of leads: direct and delayed.

Direct lead usually presents who did what at when, and sometimes where. This applies to most hard news stories.

Delayed lead usually buries the key theme of a story somewhere in the body texts (though not very down, usually in the second or third parapraph). The purpose of the lead is to attract readers to find out what actually happened. This often applies to feature stories.

There are two examples I liked so much, both of which were written by Edna Buchanan, a Pulitzer Prize-winner from The Miami Herald.

The first story was about a man with prison history named Gary Robinson. One day, he went to fried-chicken outlet and wanted to jump the line, but he was persuaded to stay in line. When his turn came, he found that the fried chicken  he wanted were sold out. What happened next was that he assaulted the woman at the counter, and a security guard shot him. Buchanan’s lead was:

Gary Robinson died hungry.

The second story was about a drug smuggler who died from broken cocaine-filled condoms he swallowed.  The lead was:

His last meal was worth $30,000 and it killed him.

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