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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Pick a strong lead and stay on your toes


The lead story is something that can make or break a newscast.  While I think that it is ultimately up to the lead producer to select and flesh out, both the video and graphics producers should have an opinion at the morning and afternoon meetings.  When deciding on the lead story, I think it's important to consider importance, level of interest and relevance to the audience.  Just because a story has one element doesn't mean it's a great story.  In the morning while I'm ordering the stories as I see fit, the story that almost always finds a place at the top is a package with time sensitivity.  That is, that it won't be news tomorrow.  Viewers are more likely to watch a show if you broadcast fresh stories.  It's all about catering to the audience.  I like me leads to have a lot of time and effort put into them.  If you open a show with a great package, it sets a pace for the rest of the newscast.  While you can plan your lead story all day and have it ready in the rundown, more time than not breaking news happens.  Lead stories can also be last minute, which is stressful.  In this case as a producer you have to be ready for move around the rundown and keep your cool.  In news things change quickly and a great package may have to be floated.  When Amanda Knox's plane landed right before a Tuesday broadcast, it got put at the top and a package got bumped.  In short, have a strong lead story planned throughout the day but be able to embrace change.

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