If your teacher has instructed you to write a summation lead for a journalism class, you must write one that lives up to its name: It should provide a summary, or a complete overview, of a news event. Stick with the primary facts, and your opening paragraph will be a compelling one.
More than Vegetable Soup
Build your lead around the credo of professional journalists: the five w's and one h, shorthand for who, what, where, when, why and how. You don't necessarily have to flesh out the information in this particular order; some elements might be better off addressed later in the article or, if they're truly insignificant, not at all. Let the facts be your guide, knowing that a solid summation lead should give readers a full synopsis of a news event in a concise manner. After the lead, prioritize the information and expound on the most important points first. Journalists refer to this as inverted-pyramid style, because just as an upside-down pyramid, a news article goes from being wide and expansive in scope to gradually more narrow.
A Summation Example
Practice writing summation leads, and soon you will be writing the first draft in your head even as a news event is unfolding. For example, suppose you are covering a school board meeting for your school newspaper. A summation lead might read as follows: “Kennedy High School board members voted 4-3 Tuesday night to allow students to use their cell phones during lunch periods in response to a student petition drive that urged the lifting of a comprehensive ban on phone usage during school hours.” This lead addresses the who, what, when and why; the how and where are probably insignificant, and subsequent paragraphs might expound on the why.
- Appalachian State University: Supplemental Notes: Writing and Editing News Leads
- Purdue University: Online Writing Lab: How to Write a Lead
- Cub Reporters.org: How to Write Good Story Leads
- Associated Press Guide to News Writing; Rene J. Cappon.
- moodboard/moodboard/Getty Images