Origin of ledeObsolete spelling of lead1, revived in modern journalism to distinguish the word from its homograph lead2, strip of metal separating lines of type.
From Middle English lede, leode, from Old English lÄ“ode (“men, people"), lÄ“od (“man"). More at leod.
Usage seems mostly confined to the U.S. Originally only journalistic usage that is now so common in general US English that it is no longer labeled as jargon by major US dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster and American Heritage. Noted as “sometimes spelled" in 1959, “often spelled" in 1969, and asserted in the 1979 reprint of a 1974 book (see Citations page). In 1990, William Safire was still able to say that "lede" was jargon not listed in regular dictionaries.