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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Lead Stories Don't Grow on Trees


I'm proud to say that Team Tuesday has had quite a few lead stories that were solid lead stories. They have been relevant, local, and important to our viewers. A few weeks ago we had the Port of Los Angeles fire. Last week we began with Provost Elizabeth Garrett leaving USC. This week we started with Vice President Joe Biden speaking in Los Angeles about raising the minimum wage. 

In theory, choosing the lead story for your newscast should be easy. The lead story is the most important, most relevant, most interesting story of the day. Chances are that, as a producer, you're noticing a story like that. Other times, you're left scrambling to decide which of your stories best fit that criteria. Lead stories don't grow on trees but sometimes you get lucky and have the Vice President visiting town to talk about an issue that affects thousands of people. 

My teammate, Evan, is mostly responsible for our strong leads. He has called the shots as lead producer three times already and decides what will be seen at the top of the show. For viewers, the first story is either going to capture their attention and get them to watch the news, or it doesn't and they change the channel. 

Personally, I like the lead story to be local. ATVN has more opportunities for original video and reporting for local stories so we get to showcase our reporters' and MJ's great work. I also usually lean towards leading with a good package, but last week as lead producer I lead with a series of elements for the story about USC's provost that were not quite a package, and it turned out well overall. Today, the minimum wage package was well done and featured well at the beginning of the show. I can see a major national or international story leading the newscast, but whenever possible we try to localize and tailor our stories to fit our audience. College-age students in Los Angeles definitely have different priorities and interests than our peers at other universities and even the greater Los Angeles community. 

The lead at ATVN does not have to be the same lead that NBC or CBS is using for their six o'clock newscast, but, just because ATVN is student-produced does not mean that we are limited in scope, especially not for a lead story. 

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