I’ve been wondering for some time why so many Blogs lead off with “The Lede”. Steve Myers does a great job of giving one possible explanation in his post here: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/146464/calling-the-beginning-of-a-story-a-lede-is-just-another-form-of-nostalgia/
Prior to the mid 1980’s much of printed media was still created by a man sitting at a Linotype machine typing letters and creating a single line of type out of hot led fired up in a pot in the back of the machine (I am sure that the Wizzard of Oz’s machine was an embellished Linotype). I was fortunate as a Cub Scout to use one of the last running ones in Orange County at the Yorba Linda Star on Main Street as part of a merit badge project. They were fascinating machines – something any boy would love to hang around – puffing and whirring and clanking. Never mind the led poisoning which did “lead” to premature neurological issues for many of the operators.
Steve’s conclusion is that the use of Lede actually started when the Linotype machine went out of style and it was started by nostaligic editors who believed that in the Linotype era “lede” was used to avoid confusion with lead (as in hot lead). He quotes Howard Owens: ” Considering that journalists didn’t begin using the jargonistic spelling until Linotype machines started to disappear from newsrooms in the 1970s and 1980s, Owens wrote on his blog, ” ‘Lede’ is an invention of linotype romanticists, not something used in newsrooms of the linotype era.”