Your lede sucks.
I remember the first time I heard that, from an editor whose name I’ll respectfully not mention. But after that jarring statement, and a good conversation about why it sucked, something crystallized for me. My lede did suck – I’d bogged the story’s mojo down with jargon, details that didn’t relate to the focus, and generally told the reader, “Hey, go ahead and skip this article.”
Ledes are the most important part of your story – after all, the reader has to get through that first paragraph to get to the next one (and then, God willing, the next one).
Today at the writer’s meeting, we discussed the key functions of a lede and the different approaches you can take after fully reporting your story. Check out this chart for an overview – LedeForWeb – and your Shorthorn staff manual for more detailed explanations of ledes (it’s great stuff!). And, if you want to test your knowledge, go through these samples – Lede Samples – and pinpoint the type of lede each is. I’ll have prizes for anyone who does it by the staff meeting next week.
Also, thanks to Christian Keitt, Shelly Williams, Dustin Dangli and Joel Cooley for the great discussion of ledes during the writers’ meeting.