“Cell phones and pagers, airplane engines, a door from a police squad car, a mother’s wallet and credit cards. Those items survived when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City during the September 11 attacks” (read the full article here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/31/washington.911.exhibit/index.html?hpt=hp_c1).
There’s a short list of items presented without context. Then, the context: a tragedy, constantly remembered and long past.
The lede could be for any number of articles concerning the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. This particular article concerns a new exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., of items once held in storage by the FBI as evidence for terror trials.
It’s an interesting article, but it’s also a human-interest piece more than anything else; there are descriptions of a few of the items on display, and that all-important context for each, but nothing is really news to someone who has been alive these last ten years. The quiet but affecting lede suggests the tone of the rest of the article, with its appeals to emotion and memory in the form of haunting images and recollections.
I would call it a successful lede: it gives a taste of the rest of the article, but without revealing the exact topic. If the title of the article had not been known to me, I would have clicked the lede because it sounded intriguing and I would have wanted to know what the rest of the article said.
So in this case, the fact that the lede itself is somewhat generic works for the better. By teasing the reader without revealing the specific subject of the article, it preys on natural human curiosity to draw people in.