I have noticed that the most visited entry I have is on writing the lede.
So it seems that there are a lot of people out there who want examples of writing good ledes, and rightfully so.
The way my professor explains it: Readers are like prisoners in a jail break who want to run away from your story. You have to grab them quick in order to keep them put.
So how about I explain a trick that was taught to me when I was still green behind the ears by an old editor at Wired. It's called the "Four Graph Lede."
I was told that it's a classic style used by the Wall Street Journal.
Keep in mind this is another hard lede, a way to organize your story so that the most information gets to the reader as quickly as possible aka, the inverted pyramid.
The first graph should be the basic who, what, where, when. What happened.
"A fire destoryed a four story apartment buidling in the South Bronx this afternoon when a tenents' oven exploded, according to fire officials."
The second graph should expand on the first, give more detail or paint a picture.
"John doe, who lived on the third floor, was cooking meatloaf around 7:00 p.m. when the oven that had been broken for weeks spewed fire across his floor. The fire quickly spread to a neigborhing apartment."
Then third graph should explain why this story is important to the reader. Let's face it if you don't live in the Bronx and there is no hero story (somebody jumping into the flames to save a cat) then you need to find relevance to other readers. Since this entire story is phoney, I'll just create some significance.
"This is the third fire that has occurred in the South Bronx in five weeks and all the buildings have belonged to the same landlord, Jacob Sparano, who is accused of negligence in keeping his buildings up to code."
The fourth graph should be the "Cosmic Quote." This is the best quote that you have from your reporting. The best are quotes from people who sum-up either the 2nd graph or third graph in a succinct and poignant sentence.
"I had left several messages to my landlord about that oven, I knew it was broken, but he just ignored me," said John Doe.
(In this case I was able to create a quote that touched on both the third and fourth paragraph, but we aren't always that lucky).
Again, writing a good lede is not a science, it's an art. It takes practice. I tend to use the four graph lede a lot. Some stories lend themselves to a great third "who cares" graph (the third graph), while other stories have better who, what, where, when graphs (this example is a little dull, I know). Sometimes you get that perfect cosmic quote and other times the people you interview don't even speak English. You just have to learn to work with what you got.