The lead story in our broadcast is our most important story of the day. However, importance and relevance can be subjective, so there’s a variety of criteria we can use to identify stories that might qualify.
I think local stories (or stories that directly affect our audience) are often pushed to the top of the show. These stories can beat out those that are nationally important but less relevant to our student body and the local community. This isn’t always the case though, so I think a good rule of thumb is to find a story that affects and relates to the most people watching. Sometimes that will not be local. Again, it just depends on the news of the day.
When working as a teammate producer, the person responsible for assisting the lead producer with videos and graphics, I try to politely mention my suggestions for potential lead stories. I think this input can be beneficial to the lead producer. However, I try not to overstep the boundaries of my role and acknowledge the responsibility falls on the lead producer to decide.
That said, I think we can do more to encourage other journalists in the newsroom to come forward with their opinions about the lead story. This is not something we’ve stressed before now. Yet as the individuals in our newsroom cycle in and out throughout the day, we’re given a diverse pool of individuals to bounce ideas off of. Talking with the various multimedia journalists could help us decide which stories mean the most to our immediate community. This practice could also help our journalists feel more ownership of our newscasts.
While the lead story can occasionally be an obvious choice, the decision is often much more ambiguous than meets the eye. And while having a checklist can help narrow the options, oftentimes you just have to go with your gut.