Normally, before I submit an article, after writing the bulk of the body copy, I spend a fair amount of time making sure the lead paragraph is strong enough, lest the piece be sent back with an admonishment by the editor to “punch up the lead a bit”. (I don’t recall ever seeing the L-word spelled “lede” by an editor until I entered the Blogosphere, incidentally.)
At the AP, things work a little differently: if a story is sufficiently hot and divisive, its important to rewrite the lead multiple times until it’s as bland as possible. Lest we offend someone and become controversial, which could actually attract readers and debate.
(In contrast, a writer at the New York Post drafts the “Political Story Lede of the Year“–and remarkably, his editor lets it stay!)