1. First, the good news: On one occasion, many years ago, this kind of lede worked. Now the bad news: It doesn’t anymore.
2. What do you use when you can’t think of a lede? A question.
3. “Whenever I feel stymied for an opening, I find a good quote and use that,” said Joe Reporter. “Yeah,” said his assigning editor, “that’s always a cheap and dull-as-shit way to start a story that no one will read.”
4. Joe Reporter leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on his chair and admitted that describing how someone was sitting was a pretty stupid way to begin a story.
5. Outside, the snow lay deep and crisp and even. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue, the temperature hovered at zero, the wind howled out of the west. Inside, a reporter had opted to give the weather rather than think of a better lede.
6. When Joe Reporter got back to the office one day not long ago, he plopped himself down in the newspaper morgue, hauled a couple of stacks of old papers and sifted through page after page, looking for a good idea for a lede. He decided to use an anecdote.
7. Take one vague story idea and an 18-inch hole on the page, add a couple hours of mediocre interviews and two old clips. What do you get? The desperation recipe lede.
8. Like the captain of the ship of state, piloting his country through the turbulent waters of international seas, a reporter often finds himself facing waves of doubt about his lede, and ultimately he turns to what he thinks is a safe harbor, the metaphor or simile lede. There, his lede sinks.
9. What do a lazy reporter at the Mercury News, an unthinking editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and sleepy copyeditors at the San Francisco Examiner all have in common? They all just love to pieces the “what do these things have in common” lede.
10. You might think it’s great to set up a false premise in the lede, only to knock it down in the second graf before getting to what you really mean to say. You’d be wrong.
11. When Joe Reporter left home that morning, little did he know that when he turned in his lede, his editor would spike it. Joe had failed at predicting the future.
12. Do you often find yourself meeting someone in the lede of a story who you found to be pretty hackneyed in the introduction? Meet the “Meet Joe Interesting” lede.
13. Consider the following; ledes that ask you to ‘consider the following’ are showing up with increasing frequency in this newspaper.