Teacher resources: Activity - How to decide on the 'top line' (10-60 mins)

Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference London mayor Boris Johnson speaks to the media at a press conference

When coming up with a story, it is important to identify the most important or interesting aspect of it - this is known as the "top line".


  • A "top line" is the most interesting, newsworthy, exciting part of a story - and is also used to refer to the start of a news story featuring that angle
  • Journalists often ask each other "what's the top line?" after an interview - in other words what's the most interesting part of the story?
  • Picking a good top line will get people interested in your stories by attracting their interest
  • But if you miss the top line, you might find a great story going unnoticed because you haven't told people about it

Whether the report you are creating is in text, audio or video, it is important to consider the "top line" of the story because this is what will draw readers, listeners and viewers in.

Check out School Report's guide to picking a top line and then try your hand at this activity.

Below are a series of interviews with various high-profile figures from the worlds of sport, politics, science and entertainment taken from the BBC Sport and News websites - but with the headlines removed!

Choose a clip (or clips) to watch and make notes as you watch it. What do you think should be the top line for your clip?

What headline would you use at the top of the story if you were the BBC journalist writing the webpage?

Fill out this worksheet to help you make your judgement about the best top line:

PDF download Worksheet: Deciding on your 'top line'[8 KB]

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