Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Was the Regular Headline Writer on a Coffee Break?

In today's "yes, details really do count category" comes this cautionary tale:

My friend Chris pointed out this headline in Yahoo! News yesterday: "Man Tends to Hurt Brother, Ill Mom." We agreed that it sounds like the guy has a penchent for beating up his sibling.

Instead, it turns out that the young man in the story actually looks after his seriously injured brother--wounded in those terrible Red Lake, Minn. school shootings--as well as his mother, who had a stroke. Shane May is a young hero, not a bully. I hope most people read beyond the lame headline.

This reminds me of another journalist gaffe that must have left the people involved gasping in disbelief. A few years before moving to Lubbock, a man in nearby Happy, Texas, (yes, it's a real town, not just a movie title), was burning brush on his property. Unfortunately, the wind direction turned and before he could escape, the brush fire overtook him.

The headline in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

"Friendly Fire Kills Happy Man."

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I don't think anything in memory will beAT the headline in the sports section from college years in the Richmond (Va) Times-Dispatch:
TROJANS ROMP OVER BEAVERS !!

Pepperbro

8:39 AM  
Blogger Alison Rose said...

LOL! The "Friendly Fire" headline actually made national news because a friend of mine sent it into Jay Leno for his weekly roundup of funny newspaper stuff and he read it on air.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Russell Woolard said...

Headline writing at a newspaper is a HARD job. I know; I used to do it. You're racking your brain trying to come up with something catchy to get people to want to read the story - but not taking too long about it, because you have to put the rest of the paper out - and you're also factoring in people you have to see or brushfires you have to put out.

There must have been a four-alarm fire at the Burlington (N.C.)Times-News when they wrote up my brother's first wedding in 1979. The headline: MISS SMITH, MR. WOLLARD WED MARRY. Thus did they manage, in the same headline, to misspell my brother's last name and to use one verb too many. Two years later, the marriage was over. Maybe it was the headline that doomed it.

On behalf of headline writers everywhere, let me say I am proud of the joy and laughter we have brought readers over the years, as well as the role we have played in making Jay Leno a star. Now if only we could talk Jay into cutting a few residual checks...

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Yahoo! has a very open hiring policy, I think. Elmer Fudd cut his teeth there, for example, as evidenced by the headline three weeks ago "Doctors going digital with wecords."

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Pete said...

And just seen among the latest AP headlines on nytimes.com, "Bomb Derails Chechnya Train, Mars Holiday." I am picturing Martians who'd otherwise be out celebrating, instead glued to their televisions (or whatever they have there), awaiting word that their loved ones in Chechnya are ok.

9:09 AM  

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