The Lead Lab

Course Overview

The Lead Lab
Self-Directed Course
This $29.95 course is free thanks to the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Time Estimate:
This course takes about an hour to complete.

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

Whether you're reporting news or telling a story, you know you have to entice your audience instantly. That's the job of the lead. The lead of a story makes a promise to the reader of good things to come. Do you deliver on that promise every time you write a lead? Have you ever wondered how to craft better leads? This course is here to help.

First, take a spin around the Lead Lab. Use your cursor to discover "hot spots." Find something interesting? Click the hot spot to learn more. After you've explored the lab, you'll get to write a few leads of your own based on facts from a real story. Once you've written your leads, submit them to the Lead Forum to see how your lead compares with other leads written by course participants just like you.

The Lead Lab course material is drawn from Reporting and Writing: Basics for the 21st Century, by Christopher Scanlan, published by Oxford Univeristy Press.

What Will I Learn:

Upon completing this course, you will:

  • Be able to craft better leads
  • Have refreshed your lead-writing basics
  • Dispel common myths about leads
  • Revise your own leads better
Who should take this course:

This course is for anyone who wants to write better leads on news stories, but it's also for people who just want to write more compelling copy. No matter what you are writing, you need a hook to get readers interested.

Course Instructor:

Chip Scanlan

Chip Scanlan is an affiliate faculty member of The Poynter Institute. From 1994 until 2009, when he retired as senior faculty for writing, he directed Poynter’s writing programs, co-directed the summer fellowship in reporting and writing for college graduates, and taught and led multimedia seminars. He has coached journalists around America, Europe and Asia. His three self-directed News University courses, The Lead Lab, The Interview and Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision regularly rank among NewsU’s top courses.

Technical Requirements:

For this course you will need to have at least version 7.0 of the Flash plugin installed. For the best experience, we suggest that:

  • PC users use Internet Explorer or Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox
  • Mac users use Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox or Safari
  • you set your monitor resolution to 1024 x 768 or higher
  • you use a high speed connection