To answer this question we need to learn some basic terminology in typography:
type: The term type is used generally to mean letters and other characters assembled into pages for printing or other means of reproduction
Leading: (it's pronounced LEDing - as in the metal lead)Leading is the spacing between the baselines of type. The term leading is derived from the practice of placing lead strips between lines type on older hand set printing presses such as a letterpress.
The word ‘leading’ originates from the strips of lead hand-typesetters used to use to space out lines of text evenly. The word leading has stuck, but essentially it’s a typographer’s term for line spacing.
So leading essentially has 2 meanings, the first one means strips of lead used in typo-setting, which are obsolete now. The second one means line height or line spacing.
My guess is that leading in the text refers to the first meaning.
the article took 3.5 columns whose lines were spaced using strips of lead.
Perhaps there used to be different methods to publish texts, one of which used lead strips to space lines, hence the name leading type.