BASICS OF NEWS REPORTING AND WRITING #3: How To Write The Lead And Body Of A News Story


In the first segment of this series, we briefly examined the most important criteria for determining news worthiness and tips for news gathering.

In the second segment, we began to study how to write a news story, with a focus on the headline. You should peruse those episodes by clicking on their titles below, if you haven’t done so, before going through this one. And be sure to do the exercises too.




News stories are written in the inverted pyramid order. This means that the most important information is presented first, followed by the second most important, down to the least important or minor details.


A lead is the first paragraph of a news story. It is traditionally written in summary style, meaning that it encapsulates the story or gives the most important aspect of it.

A well-written lead once condensed gives you the headline for your story, which means that if your headline and lead are saying different things, your story is wrong.

Just as we stated with headlines, always avoid label leads. A label lead identifies the event without revealing what happened or was said at the event.


Right after the lead, there is need to provide the context within which what was put in the lead occurred. This is because it is often impossible to compress the answers to the 5Ws and H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) into the lead.

The 5Ws and H are called news elements – they are the questions you need to answer to write a complete story.

Therefore, the most important of the news elements are addressed in the lead and the rest (as many as are available) are provided in the second paragraph called the bridge.

Check the first two paragraphs of the matric story for illustration.

UNN Places High Premium on Character, Humanity – VC to New Students

The bridge is followed up by an explanation of the information in the lead. Once again, if what you have in the third paragraph is not shedding light on what you reported in the lead, your story is probably going amiss.

Furthermore, you must exhaust the explanation of what you put in the lead before presenting other parts of the story. This may take several paragraphs.

And the other parts should be brought into the story according to their level of importance.

Do not jump from one to the other and back again as this may confuse the reader.

You may, however, need to add background material and other explanatory information at various points in the story to ease comprehension as the story on demands by the UNN community for new notes shows.

Looking at the matric. Story that we have been referring to throughout this series, the headline and lead focused on the most salient thing the VC said.

The bridge explained the circumstances under which he said it.

The next five paragraphs elaborated on what the VC said.

Note that the story is not written in a chronological manner, nor does it contain everything that happened at the event.

The dean of the faculty who spoke on behalf of the VC is introduced along the way, followed by the faculty officer and the guest from the Students’ Disciplinary Committee and finally the students.

This, in brief, is how a news story is written. We shall break this topic more in future, by God’s grace, but we wanted to arm you with the basics you need to start reporting news in a fairly standard manner.


1. Mention the sort of things that should be excluded when writing a news story of an important event.

2. Compose a news story from the passage below. It’s from a Twitter thread posted on Feb. 19, 2023 by Nasir A. El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State.

Title: NIGERIA UPDATE: ABC of Currency Redesign vs. XYZ of Cash Confiscation Explained:

Currency redesign was approved by the President and announced. Currency recoloring resulted.

Currency swap was envisaged by s.20(3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act as approved by PMB. Swap means I take N100,000 to the bank in old notes & I receive N100,000 immediately in new notes. No more, no less.

During implementation of the cash swap, the CBN withdrew over N2 trillion from circulation but printed only N400 billion, so in effect, currency confiscation was then unilaterally and unlawfully implemented by the CBN. Trade and exchange have collapsed. Human suffering, impoverishment and economic contraction resulted.

The policy objective was derailed into a deliberate national fiasco to sabotage the elections in the name of preventing vote-buying. All efforts to get CBN to implement what was lawfully approved failed.

Some State Governments had no choice but to approach the Supreme Court for adjudication. The APC as a party and the Progressive Governors Forum are unanimous that policy implementation must be reviewed, and full compliance of the subsisting ruling of the Supreme Court be observed until final judgment on the suit instituted by the State Governments.

3. Compose a proper headline for the story.

(Get as much help as you can with the exercise.)


We covered a lot of ground in this series and it was intentional. We want you to have the confidence you need to start practising journalism. There’s so much more to learn but these basics can help you begin the journey with the belief that you can do it.

Keep working on the assignments and remember that our training continues with a longer series on News Writing specifically.

Follow The Record UNN and Aunty Edith Facebook pages and invite your friends to like them for more news stories and other educational material.

Share The Record UNN stories widely as getting a by-line on an online medium becomes much more valuable when you get hundreds or thousands of eyeballs on your story, rather than recording just a few reads.

Ask your questions in the Comments below. Sending you much love and hugs! Ciao!


You may wish to check out this related post:


  • Egbue Precious

    Pls ma is It necessary for us to add the nut graph after the lead on every news writing and can you throw more light in on what a nut graph is I really want to grasp the meaning thanks

    • You don’t have to worry about a nut graph if you follow the pattern of writing I have explained in this post- summary lead, bridge, explanation of lead, background and secondary material, then minor details.

      The nut graph contextualises the story and concisely tells the reader what it’s about. This information will be available in the first three or four paragraphs written with the pattern presented in this post.

      However, when your story is not hard news and you use, say, a teasing or descriptive lead, you need a nut graph, right after the first paragraph or in the third and fourth paragraphs if your lead extends beyond the first paragraph.

      This is because while your story is creatively written, you don’t want the reader to be in the dark about what the story is on for too long. You need to give that information (the essence of the story/the story in a kernel) and reveal what direction the story is going so that the reader can decide if he wants to go ahead or not.

      • Egbue Precious

        So in conclusion a nut graph may only be needed for a soft news story since a soft news does not go straight to the main deal in the story but starts like a descriptive tale of the scene so you need the nut graph to give the reader the satisfaction of what he or she is reading right?

  • Bernice

    CBN fails to implement currency swap policy

    Governor of Kaduna state,Nasir A. El-Rufai has took to his twitter handle on February,19,2023. to announce that the Central Bank of Nigeria has failed to implement the currency swap which was approved by PMB. The currency redesign which was approved by the president on Nigeria.

    The currency swap was resulted due to the recoloring of the currency.the swap which means I take N100,000 to the bank in old notes and I receive N100,000 immediately in new note.not more,not less. During the implementation of the cash policy,the CBN withdrew over N 2 trillion from circulation but printed only N400 billion,so to this effect currency confiscation was then unilaterally and unlawfully implemented by the CBN.

    Trade and exchange tend to have collapsed. human suffering, impoverishment and economic contraction resulted as the policy objective was derailed into a deliberate national fiasco to sabotage the election in the name of preventing vote- buying.

    Some state governments had no choice but to approach the supreme court for adjudication as all effort to get CBN to implement what was lawfully approved failed. APC as a party and the progressive governor forum are unanimous that the policy implementation must be reviewed and full compliance of the subsisting ruling of the supreme court be observed until final judgement on the suit is instituted by the state governments.

  • Gbatalibe uchenna Mildred

    When writing a news story ,no need to deviate from the lead in the body of the story .thank you very much ma well understood.

  • Chukwunta Philip Ozioma

    This is very helpful, ma.

    The lead and the headline should not be saying diffident things.

    Well understood! Thank you, ma!

  • Igweonu Honour Ifenna

    This is a very inspired piece ma. I learned that the lead should be overly exhausted probably taking more than one paragraph and to also take one point one step at a time to avoid chaos when writing.

  • Tom Teme

    Detailed information on how to write a lead and the body of a news story. Insightful indeed. God bless you ma.

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