What Is a Delayed Lead in Journalism?

A delayed lead in journalism is used to entice readers into reading the whole story by giving a few hints about what the story is about but not giving the details. It sets a scene and creates an emotional response in the reader.

Delayed leads should not be used for important, just-breaking news stories. They are used as feature stories to provide information about something that has already been reported to the public. Delayed leads are also known as feature leads. The important information of the story is not given until after a bit of background information is presented or some type of anecdote is used to create just enough intrigue to warrant reading the rest of the article. In a newspaper article, the delay is three or four paragraphs, in a magazine article it can be up to six paragraphs long.

This is different from a direct lead, in which the important information is found in the first few lines and definitely within the first paragraph. Due to the Internet and television, where news is broken and told almost immediately, written journalism uses delayed leads more frequently than it did in the past. The public already knows the story, so writers need to come up with a new or better angle to report it to interest people.