Like many of the "rules" on the blog this is not hard and fast but a guideline - the problem is not that you occasionally break it but that you break it often.
So if your intros are regularly hitting 30-40 words you are doing something wrong. This really isn't a matter for debate. You are writing for a newspaper not a specialist manual.
Being direct does not mean dumbing down. Nor does it mean - heaven for fend - tabloid. It means being to the point. If it makes you feel any better remember you are part of the Twitter generation (well most of you).
It means that your average reader will be used to 140 character long sentences - including the spaces. That's around 22-24 word mark (I know, I've checked my own Twitter personal account - Anthony_Bonnici if you're interested - and several others, from both tabloid and broadsheet writers - to see how they compare).
So now 25 doesn't seem so bad, does it?
Here's a random example:
Channel 4 has cited concerns over security as the reason for cancelling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam. (29 words)
Ignore all these points if you are being paid by the word.