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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

You're Only As Weak As Your Weakest Lead

When choosing a lead, I do my best to select a story that we have a lot of original video for. The reason for this is that I want to make sure we're giving our audience something they wouldn't get elsewhere. Every now and then, that doesn't happen for whatever reason. There are stories too big and too related to our audience to ignore, even though we may not have much original content. Regardless of the amount of original material we do or don't have, the lead should aways feel new and make me go, "Woah, I really want to watch that."

As a teammate, this whole process kind of falls by the wayside, not because my lead producers don't respect my opinion but because I want to respect their judgment and allow them to feel the responsibility that comes with being the lead producer. When they do end up deciding the lead, I try to make that story my No. 1 priority, whether it's through setting up interviews, ordering CNN video or ensuring that story has a really good graphic. 

Most of the time, I don't really know what the lead is until around 4 p.m. By that time, we've had our rundown meeting with Stacy and we know how strong our reporter packages are. A lot of times, I think it comes down to the video we have. Whichever story has the most compelling video or interviews usually takes the cake, for me, at least.

Teasing that story on social media is always a tricky situation. Even at 4 p.m., when you're sure about the elements that story is going to give the audience, I'm always surprised with how different the stories turn out come 6 p.m. That's why when I promote that lead story, I try to give the audience a really good visual. I also don't like telling them it's the lead story. There's a certain thrill that comes with not knowing what is the first story you'll be seeing as a viewer. 

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