Journalism 133: Prof. Craig: Working on Leads


Many factors can influence the type of lead that's best for a given story. In most cases, the nature and context of the story points you in a direction befitting both the story's details and the audience of the publication in question.

What would your approach be in working with a reporter on leads for each of the following stories? Why would you make certain choices?

  1. A survey with notable results was released yesterday by the Child Abuse Prevention Center in Baltimore. The survey shows that three to four children die every day in the United States from child abuse or neglect. Statistics in the survey show that the number of child abuse or neglect cases reported at the end of 2023 rose to 3.3 million, from 2.6 million the previous year. More than half of the children who died were under age 1. Seventy-nine percent of the deaths were among children under age 5.
  2. A delivery driver for a Chinese food restaurant was robbed yesterday while taking food to an apartment in San Jose. The apartment complex was at 718 Western Ave. The driver was robbed of the Chinese food at gunpoint. The driver works for The Great Wall of China Restaurant at 1336 S. 17th St. A man opened the outside security door for him to let him in, and then the man disappeared. A short time later, the man came back and pointed a gun at the delivery driver. The man threatened to kill the driver unless he handed over the food. The driver gave it to him and ran out of the apartment building. Police weren't sure what specific food dishes the driver was carrying.
  3. A fire in Los Gatos caused $76,000 in damages to a two-bedroom home in the 2300 block of Main Street. Fire officials said the fire was started by a lighted cigarette on a sofa. Firefighters arrived at the house at 3:30 a.m. and found it on fire. They had the blaze under control in five minutes. The homeowner, Kathy Mahoney, was awakened by the smoke and flames. She suffered minor burns on her hands and feet.
  4. The California Bureau of Investigation yesterday released a report of crime rates for the last three months of 2023. The report says murders in California were down 33 percent since the same period in 2022, but violent crime in the home increased 15 percent. The state bureau officials said the number of rapes and robberies decreased significantly.
  5. A United Nations scientific panel released a report yesterday. Researchers of the United Nations Environment Program found that damage to the earth's ozone layer is increasing. They predicted that ozone levels could drop 3 percent in the next decade, which would lead to a 10 percent increase in skin cancer. The ozone layer above the earth absorbs some of the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.
  6. Information comes from police in Santa Ana, CA. A Santa Ana woman was charged with attempted murder yesterday. She was being held in the Orange County jail after being unable to post $250,000 bond. Police said the woman, Joan Carter, 71, doused her husband, who was confined to a wheelchair and had cancer, with rubbing alcohol and set him on fire. Police said she was angry because he ate her chocolate Easter bunny. She called paramedics six hours after the attack on her husband. Paul Carter, 62, was taken to the University of California Irvine Burn Center with third-degree burns, police said.

For today's exercise, here are the groups:
    1 2 3 4 5
    Saturn Williams
    Mohammad Najimi
    Nick Orozco
    Taylor Shepherd
    Nikita Bankar
    Madison Wilber
    Alejandra Gallo
    Vincent Rupena
    Christian Vieyra
    Gabrielle Barnes


Here's an example of a bank robbery story with some unusual elements. Work together to develop five to seven different leads for it, and email them to me by midnight tomorrow -- I wnat to be able to use them in class on Thursday morning. Be sure to include all group members' names.

A man robbed a San Jose bank Monday morning at 11:30 a.m.

Here is more information from interviews -- please note that some is general information, and some is word-for-word direct quotes.  You need to decide what you might (or might not) choose to use in the lead of the story.

  • Information from Kathy Conover, bank teller: A man wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap came to her window sometime before noon on Monday, handed her a plastic Food Lion grocery bag and told her, "Give me all the money in the bank." He showed her the barrel of a pistol he had concealed within his jacket. She filled the bag with money, but also placed an anti-theft device into the bag. She said the man ordered her to immediately help the next person in line so she wouldn't call the cops when he left. The man stuffed the bag of money down the front of his pants, and kept an eye on her as he exited the building. She saw him start to run away on foot. She described the man as a white male, roughly 35-40 years of age, about six feet tall, with dark hair and "a nose that looked like it had been broken more than once." He was wearing loose blue jeans and a dark jacket.
  • Direct quotes from Kathy Conover: "I was just at a training seminar a couple of weeks ago on how to handle robberies. They showed us how to use a dye pack. Five minutes after it's activated, it explodes and sprays bright red dye all over everything, including the money, so the robber can't spend it. They also told us that when the dye explodes, it's very hot."
  • Information from Mike Carey, police spokesman: The police received a robbery call from the Life Savings Bank, near 38th Street and Pacific Avenue, Monday morning around 11:30 a.m. The suspect demanded money from a teller, and the teller complied but placed a dye pack in with the money. According to the teller, the suspect stuffed the bag down the front of his pants and fled on foot. Witnesses a few blocks away reported seeing a man in a leather jacket running along the street, and then saw "an explosion taking place inside his pants. He was seen hopping and jumping around." Explosive dye packs such as these burn at a temperature of about 400 degrees when activated. Witnesses said that after jumping around in contortions for a minute or two, the man was finally able to remove his pants and ran away half-naked, covered in what appeared to be blood (though it may also have been red dye). Police arrived a few minutes later and found the pants, but the robber remains at large. The dye pack seared a hole through the crotch of the jeans. Police have alerted area hospitals to be on the lookout for a man complaining of crotch burns. Investigators are also seeking the public's help in finding the robber, who may be stained with bright red dye. 
  • Direct quotes from Mike Carey: "He's probably sitting around with an ice pack in his lap, that is, if he hasn't sought medical attention. If he has the dye on his, uh, shall we say, 'person,' it will be there for several days."


Practice writing and revising leads here:


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