Skip navigation
Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California


Putting Your Best, Most Popular Foot Forward


"So, what's your lead?" It's the question that could bring me to tears one day and leave me jumping for joy the next. Picking the lead story for your newscast is one of those pesky unpredictable tasks you face in the newsroom as a producer. Some days, the answer might be obvious. Some days, the answer might be a little unclear. It all depends on what news you have for the day and who you have to get it all put together! 

Today was a day when we had a lot of good, chunky news stories. We had reporters out and about getting video and interviews on the day's most important events. Despite the range of stories to pick from, one really popped out to be our lead. It was the continuation of Seal Beach massacre story that broke Wednesday. We had a reporter head to the small OC town immediately in the morning. No need for a morning meeting rundown, our reporter just headed straight to the scene.

It was clear that the Seal Beach story was our lead. It had enormous emotional pull and affected an entire community that had never experienced anything like what they saw in a few short hours. When picking a lead story, you need to pick something that is going to be of interest to a large group of people. People could be interested due to personal investments in or relationships with the story topic. People could be interested because they are going to be affected by it. People could be interested because it's just down right shocking. This story had all of these elements.

Now, once you have your lead picked, don't think you are in the clear yet! PLENTY of unforeseen obstacles might come your way before showtime. What happens if breaking news hits? Half of campus is on fire? President Obama announces his resignation? Well, looks like you might have yourself a new lead, huh?

Tonight we experienced a different kind of obstacle. Tonight we experienced...TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. My least-favorite type of obstacle, might I add. We were five minutes to showtime, and we were just finishing up our last check on the lead story. We are two minutes to showtime and we are starting to send the video over. ONE MINUTE to showtime and we get our first error message for the video transfer! Fastforward (what seemed like twenty minutes of agony) three minutes later after trying to send the video over and over, we were finally able to send the video... but by that time, we had already floated the story and moved to a completely new lead to get the show started. This is an obstacle I can't ever learn to cope with.

So, try to have a back-up story ready in case the lead falls through. It's also nice to have a back-up, back-up JUST IN CASE more unforeseen obstacles head your way! It's a funny world we have all chosen to fall into, isn't it? But life wouldn't be NEARLY as interesting if we always got what we wanted!

Leave a comment

Tavis Smiley Receives Star on Walk of Fame

By Nicole Piper
04/24/14 | 12:43 p.m. PDT

Jay Leno and Larry King joined Smiley as he received the honor.

Armenians March to Commemorate Genocide Anniversary

By Ani Ucar and Matt Hamilton
04/24/14 | 11:36 a.m. PDT

The march is one of several in Los Angeles, which is home to the largest Armenian community in the U.S.

Rapper R-Mean Performs at Tommy Trojan for Armenian Genocide

Wednesday 04/23/14

USC Head Football Coach Steve Sarkisian Offers His Tips for Success

Annenberg Hosts Evening of Innovation

We detected that you might be on a mobile device such as an iPad or iPhone. Sorry, at this time the video box is only visible on desktop computers.

Halloween Shooting Suspect Sentenced To 40 Years

04/18/14 | 12:28 p.m. PDT

The 21-year-old behind the USC Halloween shooting in 2012 was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. 

Most Habitable Earth-like Planet Found

By Bradford Evans
04/17/14 | 1:57 p.m. PDT

A new planet thathas the potential of sustaining life has been discovered.