Feature and Novelty Leads
Although the summary lead is the simplest, safest
and strongest of all leads used in straight newswriting,
most media like to add a little variety when leading into
a story. Feature leads are a vital part of newspaper
writing. The feature lead permits you to take a mundane
straight news piece and transform it into a story that
captures the interest and empathy of the readers.
Novelty leads differ from summary leads in that
they make no attempt to answer all of the five Ws and
the H. As the name implies, novelty leads are novel.
They use different writing approaches to present
different news situations to attract the readers attention
and arouse curiosity.
Feature leads must fit the mood of the story. If you
intend to set a particular mood or point of view in a story,
your intent or tone should be set at the beginning of the
If the situation presents itself in which a novelty lead
would be appropriate, by all means use it. Do not get
into the habit, however, of trying to write a novelty lead
for every story, because they are not always adaptable
to every situation. It is easy for the unusual to become
commonplace if it is seen or heard too often. Novelty
leads lose their effect if they are overused.
Figure 2-7 presents various examples of novelty
leads most commonly used in newswriting. Although
the eight types described are the ones most commonly
used, it is a mistake for you to assume that all news leads
may be categorized by type or classification. Their
names are not important anyway. To the JO, the ability
to write is more important than the ability to categorize.
Identity and Authority
There are two other considerations to keep in mind
when you are preparing news leads identity and
authority. In most local stories, especially
homeowners, it is necessary to identify persons frilly in
For example, suppose you prepared a hometown
story on a sailor who formerly resided in Louisville, Ky.
Not being very experienced, you turn in a lead like the
Navy Seaman Eugene M. Brainer
reported for duty Feb. 16 aboard the
guided-missile cruiser USS Hinkle,
now operating in Western Pacific
Although you have answered all the Ws and H
except why and how (in this case unnecessary), your
lead is still incomplete. The story is meaningless until
you identify Brainer as being from Louisville. Even
then, an editor of a Louisville newspaper will want a
local angle on the sailor. The only angle available to you
is the name of Brainers parents and their home address.
You must, therefore, identify Brainer more fully in
your lead. It is unlikely that many of the newspapers
readers would know him merely by name, and a city the
size of Louisville might have more than one Eugene M.
Brainer. To localize the story and to avoid confusion or
misinterpretation, you would include more
identification. The lead should be written in the
A Kentucky native, Seaman
Eugene M. Brainer, son of Mr. and Mrs.
Mack Brainer of 70 N. Williams St.,
Louisville, reported for duty Feb. 16
aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS
Hinkle, a unit of the Navys Seventh
Fleet in the Pacific
As you can see, complete identification of a person
in the lead sometimes makes that lead long and
cumbersome. Yet, it cannot be avoided in hometown
stories where identity is more important than the action,
especially if the action is weak, as it is in the preceding
In many instances, however, full identification is
unnecessary or impractical for inclusion in the lead. In
general, complete lead identification is unnecessary and
should be avoided when one or more of the following
points is true:
The action overshadows the person or persons
There are too many persons involved to identify
all of them by name and rate.
The identification does not mean much to the
readers in a particular area.
The who is a prominent, widely known figure.
When an individual is not fully identified in the lead,
that person must be identified by name, rank or rating,
title, duty station and possibly hometown address
elsewhere in the story. This identification is also
important for places and things in a story. If you use the
name of an unfamiliar town or city in a story, at least
identify it by the state in which it is located. If you use