LEDE AND GRAF (Hard News and Scheduled News)

With Professor Jeffrey Basinger


Quick review:

Review interview advice – 

1. Always ask for name (spelling), major, and age.

2. Listen to your subject, and use follow up questions. This makes it conversational, rather than a Q/A list.

3. Make eye contact.


           FINDING THE LEDE:

The Lede (Lead) is the first line or paragraph(s) of a news story. It needs to be poignant, and highlight the reason for the story. (Don’t bury the lede). 

Ask yourself – “What is this story about?” Your lede should answer this question.

Try writing a headline. This can help hone in on the point of the story. Or…

Can you tell your story in three words? Try this thought exercise to identify the lede.

            WRITING THE LEDE:

While reporting the story (when out in the field, conducting interviews, doing research) listen for the lede. Sometimes a fact discovered, or a series of events, provides a scene for the lede. 

But don’t get stuck on a lede… be willing to change if a better one comes along.

The lede can set the pace, and readers want a fast-paced, succinct read (not a belabored one).

Write as you report — if the lede doesn’t come right away, write parts of the story, and then come back to the lede.

Don’t forget the basics of the 5 W’s — a great way to get out of a lede rut.

Use active voice, not passive. Example: “Trained lemurs robbed bank.” NOT: “Bank was robbed by trained lemurs.” 

    Fix this lede from passive to active:
    “On a Monday morning, police announced four turtles were turned into ninjas by toxic sludge.”

Be honest. You mustn’t fool the readers into thinking the story is one thing, and then delivering another. 

            RE-WRITING THE LEDE:

Strengthen your writing through re-writing.

Challenge every verb (and preposition, and adjective).

Remove opinion statements and avoid vague phrases.

Does your lede need an attribution, or can you state something as news fact without one?

Is there a hedge? (may, might, could…) Do you have to use a hedge? If you do, is it the strongest it can be? 

Read your lede outloud. This helps identify where you can trim, and if the sentences feel normal.

The Nut Graf

Not every story HAS or NEEDS a Nut Graf.

What is the Nut Graf:

The POYNTER INSTITUTE describes it as such:

  • It justifies the story by telling readers why they should care.
  • It provides a transition from the lead(lede) and explains the lead and its connection to the rest of the story.
  • It often tells readers why the story is timely.
  • It often includes supporting material that helps readers see why the story is important.

Ken Wells, a writer and editor at The Wall Street Journal, described the nut graf as “a paragraph that says what this whole story is about and why you should read it. It’s a flag to the reader, high up in the story: You can decide to proceed or not, but if you read no farther, you know what that story’s about.”

Does this LEDE need a NUT GRAF?

Lede from a NYT article by Tim Arango:

“A line of burned-out cars on the side of a road. The charred remains of an old pickup truck, brightened by a pristine American flag draped over the cab. Desperate residents fleeing, cars packed with people and family heirlooms, anything that could be frantically scooped up.

A lede from Dan Barry:

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.”


(10 min.)

Open your transcribed interview (the HW from a week ago).

Identify the story within this transcription. 

Find and write a headline, lede and graf for this story. USE SOMETHING FROM THE INTERVIEW



Hard News is topics like politics, economics, international relations, health and welfare, and scientific developments. Things that have impact on people’s lives. Think “issues.”

Soft News is topics like Celebrity, arts and culture, sports, lifestyle, entertainment.

Finding Breaking HARD News!  

Many journalists use social media to find stories. (Follow local Twitter accounts, etc).

Police scanners for emergency services like fires and car crashes (there are police scanner apps too).

Bring the national or international, local. If there’s a major national story that is currently breaking (legislation passed, disasters…) you can find local angles.



Scheduled Hard News Event!

Check calendars for legislative votes, political events, school body or administrative announcements, 

Or use Social media to find a breaking hard news story.





HW: Read I.R. Chapter 7 (“Law and Ethics”)

HW: Write a very short Breaking News or Scheduled Event HARD News story (Due Next Class)
(1. Find an event or breaking news story on campus. 2. Write a short news story about it. 3. Have a headline, lede, and nut graf. Total length, between 100 and 200 words.)

IF NO BREAKING OR SCHEDULED HARD NEWS HAPPENS … REWRITE a RECENT breaking news story from a major news outlet.