Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Naked Jennifer Lawrence Pelted By BB Gun While, Of Course, Peeing

Headline writing used to be an art. Back in the (very) old days when people got their news from newspapers, headlines would entice them to plunk down the nickel or whatever those rags charged. It was a very competitive field then and newspapers actually had headline writers on staff. In later years the tabloids took these headlines to classic extremes. Probably the most famous being from the New York Post:

Headless Body In Topless Bar

Sports sections also featured great headlines from time to time. I was up in San Francisco for the grand opening of AT&T Park. The Dodgers were playing the Giants to an SRO crowd. Dodger shortstop Kevin Elster uncharacteristically hit three home runs en route to a Dodger victory. The headline in one of the San Francisco papers the next day was:

Three Of A Kind Beats Full House

Today everything is on line and we bloggers and webmasters use headlines to try to grab eyeballs. Ideally, they’re intriguing enough that you’ll want to click through.

A major online publication is the Huffington Post. Their front page offers dozens of articles, each containing audience grabbing headlines. But some of them are, well… ridiculous. Over the course of just a couple of days last week I assembled these actual HuffPost Headlines. Why write comedy when I can just cut and paste this?

Morons Charged After Stomping On Iconic Yellowstone Hot Spring

Naked Jennifer Lawrence Pelted By BB Gun While, Of Course, Peeing

Turns Out Matthew McConaughey Is Really Good At Making Weird Noises

Kim Kardashian Vows To Keep Breaking The Internet With Nude Selfies

Meet Kim Kardashian: A Spy Intent On Corrupting Iranian Youth

Stunning Photos Finally Give Cat Ladies Their Due

How To Live An Orgasmic Life When You Don't Have A Sexual Partner

Texas Republican Wants Schools To Decide How To Police Bathrooms -- Unless They Decide Wrong

Congress Is Using Zika To Weaken Truck Safety

This Couple Decided To Take Their Engagement Pictures At Costco

Lawmaker Briefly Proposes Regulation To Keep Strippers Young, Trim

It Turns Out That Having Sex In A Self-Driving Car Is Kind Of Dangerous

Proof That George Washington Would Be Ashamed Of Trump

The 8 Avocado Hacks You Want And Need

Mysterious 'Ghost' Voice Turns Out To Be A Guy In The Chimney


Pat Reeder said...

One of my favorite parts of writing the Comedy Wire radio service was our headlines that usually only the DJs saw, unless they wanted to repurpose them somehow. Even though I wrote tens of thousands of them over the years, the one that always sticks in my mind was from very early on, about Willie Nelson cutting a deal with the IRS to pay all the money he owed. The headline was "Let's Go To Lickin' Back Taxes."

On a related note, did you see the hilariously clueless Tweet from the editor of HuffPo? She wanted to demonstrate how diverse her editorial staff is, so she sent out a photo with the headline, "Notice anything about this (HuffPo) editorial meeting?" with a lot of "girl power" emojis. I'm sure she was fishing for compliments for her "diversity," but of course, commenters immediately noticed that there were no men, no minorities and nobody who looked over 30. Nothing at the table but young, white chicks. The editor was bragging about her pursuit of diversity in hiring an entire staff who all look exactly like her.

How would they headline that? I'd paraphrase one of my favorite Niles Crane lines: "When It Comes To Diversity, Huff Po' Folks Don't 'Speck Much."

Wendy M. Grossman said...

One thing Ken leaves out is the added difficulty in the print era of devising an attention-grabbing headline that fit the publication's style and *also* fit precisely into the space allocated for it in the typeface the designer specified at a time when you couldn't just alter the size by a fraction of a point and know no one would really notice. You would *count* spaces based on a system that took into account the varying letter widths of proportional type. It was *enormously* difficult, and when we talk about "great headlines" there's a whole lot of hidden greatness under the surface. I started doing journalism at the tail end of that period, and it was a really complex job.


B.A. said...

Those clickbait headlines you mention were probably written by a computer which maximizes ad revenue. Meanwhile TV newsreaders have smashed time and grammar: "All eyes are on the red carpet for the Emmy Awards last night." Copyeditor is a job that used to exist.

chicoruiz said...

Back in the 1960s, the Reds traded reliever Bill Henry to the Giants for reliever Jim Duffalo. The headline in the Cincinnati paper read, "Henry Shuffles Off For Duffalo".

Mike Barer said...

MSN and Yahoo have headlines that make me click. Then I often find no story to speak of.

Unknown said...

On of my favorite sports headlines was in the 1975 World Series with Red Sox v. Reds. Red Sox utility player Bernie Carbo pinch hit a home run in game 6 (before Fisk won it with his memorable left field shot). Headline in local paper "Carbo-nated"

Lou Gravity said...

Shortly after the classic NY Post headline, our local tabloid followed with this:
HEAD IN HOPEWELL. A poor attempt, most thought. Some months later when all was forgotten, they ran another screaming headline: HEAD HAD AIDS

Bud Wilkinson said...

Headline writing is a lost art. The problem I have these days with having a blog/website is that search engine optimization is the goal; not writing something clever to suck someone in. Having the story pop up when someone does a search trumps being creative or entertaining. Hate it.

Pete Grossman said...

Ah, yes, the Post. A fave from Nov. 2012 regarding General Petreaus's affair that he kept top secret: Cloak and Shag Her.

Michael said...

Our sports arena in Las Vegas was going to open with a concert by Frank, Dean, and Sammy. At the time, I worked for The Valley Times, a small tabloid newspaper in Las Vegas, and wrote the following headline:

Rat Pack Back at Thomas & Mack

The greatest headline I ever heard of was in the wonderful book No Cheering in the Press Box, memories of old sportswriters. A San Francisco newspaperman interviewed a Berkeley co-ed with a 4.0 GPA and asked how she did it. The answer was that all she ate were beans--kidney, soy, lima, you name it--because they were great brain food. The headline?

Co-ed Eats Beans to Make Her Astute

Earl Boebert said...

The Weekly World News headlines were brilliant for tapping into paranoid fantasies. One of their arcs was the discovery of a B-24 bomber on the moon. [For those of you unfamiliar with the WWN, it was the original fake news outlet.] Anyhow, the last headline was "B-24 Disappears From Moon." Which explains why you don't see it there anymore.

I read someplace that the WWN was put out by five people: editor/pasteup, two writers, photographer and the airbrush guy. Would make a great sitcom premise. Set it back in the 70's like a demented "Mad Men." And bring in all kinds of guest actors as kooks who actually thought the stories were true.

Covarr said...

I work at a newspaper, and our layout guy does our headlines. For the most part they're pretty ordinary, but he likes to toss puns in there whenever he can. He regularly treads the line between getting commended and getting yelled at by the editor.

Not too long ago, a local dam was cracked and needed repairs. When the work was almost finished, he ran the story with the headline "Dam Near Ready". Surprisingly nobody called in to complain about that, but a lot of readers thought it was great.

DC said...

My fave: "Ike beat Tina to death"

David said...

I love headline stories because they let me trot out my two favorite ones of all time, both courtesy of ESPN. First, some background: Young Boys is a Swiss soccer team, and in 2003 they were playing in a borrowed stadium while their new permanent stadium - Wankdorf - was being built. They were scheduled to play an important match, but were not allowed to add additional seating at the smaller, temporary home. The headline: "Young Boys Wankdorf Erection Woe."

A couple of years later construction of the new stadium was complete, and the team moved in: "Young Boys Wankdorf Erection Relief."

As far as I'm concerned, the internet has been all downhill since then.

emily said...


Pat Quinn said...

Richard Loeb, sentenced to life in prison for killing a young boy, was approached in the prison shower by another prisoner who asked Loeb for a sexual favor. Loeb reportedly resisted and was knifed and left to bleed to death in the shower. His death was reported:

Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition.

benson said...

I love headline stories, too. Used to have a book of them, but that's was lost in a move decades ago. I remember one that is tame by today's Two Broke Girls standards.
The Bloomington, IL Pantagraph in the sports section had a story about a fans getting into it at a Bloomington Bloomers doubleheader. Headline read: Near Riot As Bloomers Split.

@David, This is more a radio story than a headline story, but we have a business in town, that has sponsored local high school sports on the radio. They do setup and repairs on steel structures. It was always fun to read commercial copy for Roberts Steel Erection.

Steve from NC said...

Here's a Washington Post story lamenting the Googlizing of headlines:


I think it was in part prompted by this one noted in the article:

"Early this year, the print edition of The Post had this great headline on a story about Conan O'Brien's decision to quit rather than accept a later time slot: "Better never than late." Online, it was changed to "Conan O'Brien won't give up 'Tonight Show' time slot to make room for Jay Leno." "

As a former copy editor I was almost fired once over a headline. Working in the upper South our newspaper still served a relatively conservative Christian demographic. At the time newspapers needed short fillers sometimes to take up space if a major story ran short. The Copy Desk Editor used to pass these off to me for headlines (20 or so at a time) and would barely look at them when I turned them in. One time there was a short piece about the church in Italy where DaVinci's Last Supper was on display getting a new climate control system to try to preserve the decaying painting. My headline: "Jesus, Disciples to Dine in Comfort" was frowned upon and almost got me canned when readers complained.

Johnny Walker said...

Here's some from HuffPost UK...

8 Times You've Seen Matt LeBlanc Before (Aside From 'Friends')

Toddler And Dog Mesmerised By Garden Intruder

Genital Phobia: The Curse Of The 'Sexual Celebrity'

Bizarre Mike Tyson 1995 Fight Footage 'Shows Fan With Camera Phone'

Naked Sleepwalker Tries To Get Selfie With Police

Woman Arrested For What She Did To The Pilot Who Ordered Her Off His Plane (aka "Woman arrested for something so dull that if we put it in the headline you wouldn't want to click on it")

The mind boggles :(

Anonymous said...

Curses, Ken you could have provided a public service if you had linked the headlines especially the one on living an O* life without a partner . . .

JED said...

Saw this "headline" on the cover of People in the drugstore in October last year,

"Khloé Kardashian Breaks Her Silence"

You can't break what never was.

Igor said...

Leno used to do headlines, and some were good, though it bothered me when sometimes he'd act as if the headline writer didn't realize what he/she'd done. Never giving the writer credit & laughing with him/her.

My favorite: "Fiddler Falls Off a Roof", about a guy named Fiddler who... had been working on this roof.

I pictured the headline writer seeing the story, realizing what he/she had, writing the headline, and then with the world's biggest grin walking out never to be seen again.

MikeN said...

ESPN after Latrell Sprewell of the Warriors got lost for a home game.


Anonymous said...

Phillies ised to have a double play combination of Cookie Rojas and Bobby Wine.
they lost a game one day when they both blew a relay -
"The Daze of Wine And Rojas"

When Felix Trinidad beat Oscar De la Hoya
"Oscar beats Up Felix"

Patty said...

Must be caused by all the eye popping outfits.

Barry Traylor said...

"Proof That George Washington Would Be Ashamed Of Trump" Actually I am ashamed to be living in the same country as Trump.

Anonymous said...

All-time classic is of course:


Andrea said...

Foot Heads Arms Body was a headline rumoured to have appeared in the Times when politician Michael Foot head a disarmament group.

Sadly I think it's an urban legend.

Johnny Walker said...

Fear not, Andrea, "Foot Heads Arms Body" appears to be no urban legend: http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/mar/05/footnotes-life-michael-foot

cadavra said...

My favorite was one that never ran. Tim Gray wrote it for "Variety"'s obit of Lucy, but it was rejected: BALL NOW IN GOD'S COURT.

DrBOP said...

(Man, this has got to be OLDER than vaudeville, but here goes.....)

Sex is like playing cards

If you don't have a good partner

You better have a good hand

( http://instantrimshot.com/ )