Selecting the lead story for a newscast is a crucial decision – you're setting the first item on the show's agenda. Some days the choice seems clear, and others it's much harder to decide. It's not a decision set in stone either – your lead when you first start on the rundown at 9:30 in the morning can be very different than your lead at 12, or even your lead when you get on the air at 6 p.m. It all depends on the news of the day.
As a lead producer, I'm always considering immediacy. When did this happen? Is it breaking? How new will it feel at 6 tonight? Is this information my viewers (who are likely tuned in to the news all day, albeit on their phones) will have already seen? That's not to say something that happens at 5 p.m. automatically trumps something that happened in the morning, but it's something to keep in mind.
I'm also thinking about impact and value to the audience. How many people might be affected by this story? How extreme is the impact? By that I mean, have people died? Are people injured? Are they upset? Are they excited? That last rhetorical question was part of the thinking behind leading with the World Series Game 2 on Wednesday. How important is it for people to know about this? How interesting or relevant might it be to the "average Joe" who wants to be informed about the community he lives in?
Another consideration is how strong the content we have is. In other words, what are we getting? Do we have an interesting or moving interview? Do we have incredible video? I find this a helpful question on days where there isn't a clear lead based on immediacy and impact. It can help to narrow the thinking when there's more than one story that could become the lead.
As a teammate, I feel it's important to leave this decision to the lead producer, with the help of the EP. But I can help them by making sure the lead producer understands what we have.
I can bring up interviews that are powerful, video that's compelling or stories we thought would be strong but may not turn out like we'd hoped. As teammate, especially as the video teammate, I'm more hands-on with the raw footage we gather. So if there are any diamonds in the rough that our reporters may not spot, I can help bring those to the attention of the lead producer.
Granted, that may not always inform the decision of what to lead with – some stories might sit higher in the show regardless of what we get, because of their urgency or newsworthiness. But on days where there isn't a clear lead, that information can help.