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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Love Your Lead

As a producer, without an attention-grabbing lead, all of your news team's hard work in putting together a show can be lost in an instant. In television, we learn to keep our viewers tuned in by having a big, well thought out leading story because if the first thing they see is boring to them, it's easier to pick up the remote and change the channel.

In Tuesday's newscast, former LAUSD Teacher Mark Berndt's arraignment was featured at the very top of the newscast as our lead. Not only did I put this story in my preshow and as my leading element, but I used footage of Berndt at the arraignment as a VO for the show's cold open. I feel as though this story had enough pull to be the lead in my newscast because it's been such a prominent case which has been unfolding before our eyes.

As a viewer, I expect the leading story to draw me in and interest me in staying tuned to watch the show. Often, people stumble upon the news after watching their favorite television show when they hear of an interesting story to come. The lead story needs to focus on appealing to the specific demographic the newscast is focused on - for ATVN this demographic is college students around the age of 20.

With the knowledge of our demographic, the lead story must be something these students find interesting, important, or can relate to. One easy test for whether or not a specific story will appeal to this demographic, since I am a part of it, is to ask myself if the story would appeal to me or any of my colleagues. If I don't find it interesting, why would other college students find it interesting?

As Lead Producer, I learned how important it is to love all of your stories. I had to know each one inside and out because all of the multimedia journalists, assignment desk editors, and reporters depend on me to provide them with details on a story before they can begin working on it. While all of the stories are equally important in a newscast, and they should all be current, "top stories," the lead has to fit specific criteria. In my opinion it must be not only current and newsworthy, but it has to make your audience feel some sense of urgency so that they feel they must hear this new information and can't afford to change the channel.

This is one major aspect in how news stations are able to keep their Nielsen ratings high as viewers are more likely to stay tuned if the first story is of interest to them, specifically.

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