Saluting the most scintillating leads of the year

The folks at Poynter have compiled a list honoring the ‘Best Pulitzer Leads’ of the past year. The awards are informal, but the writing and storytelling lessons are instructive.

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There are many methods to writing captivating, compelling leads—enticing storytelling salvos that propel readers into your piece—but it’s a delicate art that requires a deft editorial touch.


Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, has compiled a “Best Pulitzer Lead” list for four years now, and he’s just published this year’s winners.

Clark’s criteria for the honorees include:

Julie Johnson of The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, nabbed top honors for this jarring “narrative action” intro:

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Gino DeGraffenreid was about to jump back into his truck after loading a fleeing family into a police car when he thought he heard someone yelling amid the roaring wind and fire in the hills northeast of Santa Rosa.

He ran toward the voice and saw them: a couple wearing next to nothing, freezing amid an unprecedented fire belching smoke and raining firebrands.

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