New on the Wire: AP to Offer Two Leads for Some Stories

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By: Joe Strupp

Attention Associated Press members, prepare to get more for your money: Now available, two leads for the price of one.

In a break with tradition at the 156-year-old news cooperative, the AP will now offer two different leads for many of its news stories, the organization confirmed Wednesday.

“”The concept is simple: On major spot stories — especially when events happen early in the day — we will provide you with two versions to choose between,”” the AP said in an advisory to members. “”One will be the traditional ‘straight lead’ that leads with the main facts of what took place. The other will be the ‘optional,’ an alternative approach that attempts to draw in the reader through imagery, narrative devices, perspective or other creative means.””

The advisory added that the change is an attempt to “”enhance the value of the AP news report to your newspaper.”” The AP serves about 1,700 members.

AP officials said the optional leads have already begun to appear in some sports stories and on the national news wires during the past two months. The new initiative is in response to requests from many editors who want to be able to offer readers “”something fresh so they will want to pick up the newspaper and read a story, even though the facts have been splashed all over the Web and widely broadcast.””

“”Many newspaper wire desks don’t have the resources for a lot of heavy lifting on our copy,”” AP Managing Editor Mike Silverman said about the need for built-in options. “”They would like our help in giving the reader something different from what is posted on the Web.””

The AP stressed that the optional leads will not be available to the news service’s Internet providers. They are designed strictly for print.

“”This is not an attempt to turn a hard news story into a feature,”” the advisory said. “”We will still present the main facts of what happened in the top few grafs of the optional. Following the alternative lead, the story will typically pick up into the body of the traditional lead.””

AP officials said the optional leads will not be on every story, just those of high interest that are breaking as spot news.

“”Big, big breaking spot stories,”” Silverman added. “”We are not setting quotas or promising that it will be every story. The idea is to do it as often as we think the story warrants and if we can do it well.””

An example of the differing leads:

Traditional

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs. The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.

Optional

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) Yet again, almost as if scripted, a day of hope for a new, democratic Iraq turned into a day of tears as a bloody insurgent attack undercut a political step forward.

On Thursday, just as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad were telling reporters that they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government, a suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners in the northern city of Mosul.

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