The Lead Lab

News University is one of the world’s most innovative online journalism and media training programs, open to journalists, bloggers, freelance writers, journalism students and anyone who wants to improve their journalism-based skills.

They serve more than 130,000 users through self-directed courses, group seminars, and Webinars, covering subjects from multimedia techniques, to writing and reporting. Free self-directed courses are offered as well as courses for a minimal fee.

Recently, I signed up for The Lead Lab, which was a self-directed, interactive, virtual classroom taught by Chip Scanlan a 20-year veteran journalist who won 16 awards.  As a journalism major, I was impressed that I learned about different types of leads that I had never heard of before. For example: Did you know that there are two styles of leads?

  • Tell me the news, direct leads 
  • Tell me a story, delayed-type leads

Direct leads include the summary lead which sums up the story in a single paragraph, used for hard and breaking news and the analysis lead, which as the name implies, analyzes the events and issues of the day and puts them in perspective. Newspapers and wire services who see their role as a paper of record favor this approach, as do online services, radio and TV news.  Direct leads disseminate the most important information quickly.

Delayed leads, on the other hand, appeal to readers who have already heard the basic news and want to read a story.  There are four types of “tell me a story” type leads:

  1. anecdotal
  2. significant detail
  3. round-up
  4. emblem

Anecdotal leads begin with an anecdote, scene or quote that illustrates the story about to be told.  Significant Detail leads begin with a close-up of significant and/or interesting detail. Emblem leads use a single illustration of the subject or these of the story to put a human face on a social problem.  And finally, Round-Up leads use anecdotes, illustrations or examples to demonstrate a trend. 

By clicking on spots in the virtual lab, you can learn more information about that particular topic.  The Lead Lab was , fun and educational without over-taxing your brain, especially when you’ve already got every cell firing.


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