The Lead Story

By Doug Drew 

The lead story to each newscast should be treated like a new baby. Just like expecting parents spend endless amounts of time readying for the arrival of their new one, producers should spend considerable time preparing for the arrival of the lead story. Just as new parents cuddle and cradle their newborn, producers should give extra love and attention to the lead story.

If there are two things of which the producer should take ownership its the pre-show headlines and the lead story. Those are the two most crucial elements of any newscast. Those are the elements the viewer sees first and impacts their decision whether they will watch the newscast. Viewers are fickle and fleeting. If you dont capture their attention right away they are likely to go away.

Time Management
The demands on a producer are great these days. Stations are doing more news with the same amount or fewer people. Producers are stressed and often feel they are so rushed they dont have time to do anything well. The key is to spend time in the right places. If you cant write to your video on all the stories, this is one place to do it! WRITE TO YOUR VIDEO ON THE LEAD STORY! Spend time with your lead story. Track it all day long. Be in constant communication with the reporter. Know what facts and video the reporter has and work hard at picking a dynamic location for a live shot if the story will be introduced from the field.

The Intro
Craft the anchor intro. Decide early what video to use. Think about the use of maps, graphics and possible fonts. Remember, the lead gets full attention. Its not just another story. Take time with it. Better to farm out those less important stories to others. Why spend a half hour tracking down the feed video and scripts of the ferry that sank in Sri Lanka that runs in the middle of your second segment? It happens all the time, you get stuck writing a story that isnt worth the time you spent on it.

Select The Lead Carefully
Most importantly, be passionate, from the morning meeting on, about what story is going to lead your newscast. Be choosy in selecting a lead story. Dont settle for average. First of all, remember what TV does best. TV is all about cool video and introducing viewers to interesting people. Newspapers are about words. Radio is sound. TV is all about video and compelling drama. Your lead story should have both of those. Its all about storytelling, not reporting. Tell, and show, viewers an interesting story.

Lead story checklist:

Pick compelling stories and give them FULL ATTENTION ALL DAY
Get to video quickly
Write to the video
Meet interesting people not just officials
Use maps, fonts, graphics if appropriate
Find a live location where the reporter can visually help tell the story.

Viewers are going to decide whether to watch your newscast within the first few minutes, maybe seconds. Start your newscast off with a bang. Make your lead special. It deserves special treatment.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com

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