Thursday 22 July 2010

Going gaga over the death of headline writing

Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten has had a general moan about the present state of newspapers and, in particular, the ending of the art of headline writing.
He writes: "My biggest beef with the New Newsroom, is what has happened to headlines. In old newsrooms, headline writing was considered an art. This might seem like a stretch to you, but not to copy editors, who graduated from college with a degree in English literature, did their master's thesis on intimations of mortality in the early works of Molière, and then spent the next 20 years making sure to change commas to semicolons in the absence of a conjunction."
Weingarten picks a couple of his favourite headlines: When the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE.
He adds: "Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don't seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That's because, on the Web, headlines aren't designed to catch readers' eyes. They are designed for "search engine optimization," meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted 'eyeball.'
He ends: "I spent an hour coming up with the perfect, clever, punny headline for this column. If you read this on paper, you'd see it: "A digital salute to online journalism." I guarantee you that when it runs online, editors will have changed it to something dull, to maximize the possibility that someone, searching for something she cares about, will click on it. I bet it'll read Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.
"Lady Gaga."

Guess what? does.

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