Why Journalism Matters #1 Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Thesis vs. Lede - National Council of Teachers of English
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Why Journalism Matters #1 Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Thesis vs. Lede

This is the second in a weekly series by NCTE member Alana Rome. 

Alana RomeHow to teach essay writing: it’s one of the biggest struggles as an English teacher. Crafting a well-written thesis, organizing and prioritizing information, backing up claims with textual evidence and many more subtle skills students need to master before they leave our classrooms. . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if those skills were reinforced in another class, as well?

Enter journalism classes.

Although any journalism teacher will tell you that article writing is vastly different from essay writing, both share many of the vital skills students need to effectively communicate through the written word.

Through this “Why Journalism Matters” mini-blog series, I will highlight several similarities between essay and article writing, and by extension, show how journalism programs can be utilized to help foster and reinforce strong writing and communication skills among English students.


The heart of the essay, the “so what?,” the author’s main argument or claim. Whatever you call it and however you define it for students, the basic premise is the same: students need to know how to frame their ideas clearly so their readers know what is being argued.

A lede (pronounced “lead”) serves the same purpose in article writing; it is a brief (often 35-40 word) introduction considered to be the most important part of the article. The lede presents the reader with the “5W and H”: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Although ledes have always been considered the most crucial part of a story, readers’ dwindling attention spans, thanks to bite-size news found in SnapChat and Twitter, have made grabbing their attention an even bigger challenge.

Teaching journalism students to write effective ledes helps reinforce effective theses in English classes. Ledes teach students how to present the most salient information first, helping to frame the rest of the text for the reader. Moreover, both effective ledes and theses must utilize active voice and help the writer clarify the angle, or purpose, of their writing.

For more information on writing ledes, see the following links:

How To Write a Great Lede for Your News Story (About.com) — Goes over what a lede is and breaks down several effective ledes into their parts.

A Lede Should . . . (College Journalism) — Lists and explains various types of story ledes.

How To Write a Lede (OWL Purdue) — A very comprehensive resource for different kinds of ledes, with examples and do’s and dont’s.

Alana Rome is an English teacher, newspaper adviser for Trailblazer, and soon-to-be journalism teacher at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, NJ. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in English education, grades 7-12, both from Iona College. Alana is a contributor of English Leadership Quarterly and has provided professional development sessions at EdScape, Global Education Conference, and Columbia Scholastic Press Association on a variety of topics, including global awareness, authentic assessment, classroom technology integration and student goal-setting.