If it bleeds, it leads. That's the common mantra that comes to mind when most people think about broadcast news, but that's just a simple explanation. A lead story is something that grabs your audience's attention. It's what creates an appeal to your show. It's a story that is important and impacts your audience.
When it comes to a lead story, there isn't one specific thing that I look for when choosing a lead story. Of course, I immediately gravitate towards something that's happening day-of-air. As a USC newscast, I also look for stories that appeal most to our audience; however, just because something isn't happening on or near campus doesn't mean that it can't be a lead story. For me, I find that national stories, especially those that call to American ideals, I'll pick those over a local story if its impact is widespread. The student population of USC is diverse and USC students come from all across the globe, so it's easy to find angles to cover national or international stories as they're bound to impact various people on campus.
As the digital and graphics teammate on Tuesday of this week, I wouldn't necessarily have much of a say in the lead story if it were a typical day, but it was Game 1 of the World Series—the first time in 29 years the Dodgers played for the top prize in baseball.
Being the lifelong Dodgers fan that I am, I was able to have a good amount of input in the content of the show.The video that we used from Dodger stadium came later in the day, which didn't leave a lot of time to put everything together. I met with my lead producer about 30 minutes before we went live to discuss changing the Cold Open from a soundbite of someone in attendance to sound from the crowd followed by the anchor speaking over the video. This was because one of our reporters who attended the game as a fan sent in a video of the Dodgers' leadoff hitter Chris Taylor's solo home run in the bottom of the first. The natural sound from the fans of Dodger stadium was too good to pass up, but I also thought that our anchor could give context to the video, so we changed it.
When it comes to selecting a lead story, I would say that the bulk of the decision belongs to the lead producer; however, that doesn't mean that the two producer teammates can't share their input. On days when I'm lead producer, I generally know what I want the lead story to be, but I'm always happy to hear from my fellow producers because, usually, their ideas help to improve what I've already selected as the lead story.
Overall, the media center runs best when we all work as a team, and choosing the lead story can also be a team effort.