In Case You Missed It,...

MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski had just about enough of the Paris Hilton story when she refused to lead her news report with Paris Hilton post-prison updates. On "Morning Joe" with co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist, Brzezinski tried to torch the script with a lighter, crumpled it into a ball and finally sent it through a paper shredder. I appreciate what she did, as I, too, am completely sick of Paris Hilton and the coverage her prison sentence garnered. Brzezinski stood up to her network on the air and refused to grant the Hilton story numero uno coverage. It really became a big deal because Joe and Willie made fun of Mika for refusing to read the script. Still, few journalists of her level would have the guts to do that.

Also, I was clicking around my television Saturday morning and turned to NBC's HD channel. I thought I would just see an HD version of the "Today" show, but instead some groggy-eyed producer put the studio feed on the air, so I watched an anchorwoman practicing her script and talking to producers about pronunciations and camera angles. I have never seen the network news make a blunder like that. After watching the anchor stumble through the copy three times, it kind of took away from actually hearing it live. Some things viewers are just not supposed to see...


Bad Headline:

"China officials live without air-cons for a day"


I didn't like this headline because of the "air-cons". This article talks about how the Chinese government cut off air conditioning for some government employees to save a little bit of energy. When I first saw the headline, for some reason, I thought of that Nicolas Cage movie, "Con Air". I honestly thought the article was about some Chinese military exercise. To me, the headling is a little misleading. Instead of using air-cons, I think that just using "AC" would have been acceptable or maybe even "cool air".

Good Headline:

"Will iPhone rock music industry?"


This headline is simple, catchy and a pretty good example of using the SVO structure for a headline but this one is in the form of a question. I like how they used "rock" to ambiguously imply that people who buy the iPhone will bolster the iTunes industry but that the music industry as a whole will suffer because Apple doesn't allow customers to download music directly to the phones.


Headlines, good and bad

A good headline:

“iPhone May Not Rock Music Industry”

This June 26 story is from the WBAL site. You can find it here:


This headline uses the subject-verb-object format and makes clever use of the verb “rock.” Like any good headline it makes you want to know more about the story. It uses the qualifier “may not” to reflect the views of some experts without buying the opinion itself.

A bad headline:

Southeast Europe Sizzles; 38 Die”


This is again a June 26 story and is from the WJLA site.

“Sizzles” is an expressive word and is usually used in more informal or light-hearted contexts. Using it in a headline that tells us 38 people have died is a bit tasteless. The headline can be rephrased using the subject-verb-object format. For example, the headline could instead read: “South-east Europe heat wave kills 38.” Also, if there isn’t enough space, “heat wave” could be replaced with just “heat.”


good/bad headlines

Good headline: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/politics/bal-taxes0626,0,2838871.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

Leaders differ on budget fix

I think this iheadline from today's Baltimore Sun is a good, strong headline because it is short and concise and the reader knows exactly what they are going to get. It also follows the structure of a good headline which we discussed in class: subject verb object. Here the subject, leaders, preceeds the noun, differ which preceeds the object, the budget fix. The headline reads easily and appears to fit into the appropriate size for professsional headlines.

Bad headline: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/25/AR2007062501763.html

Pension For Police Appointee Debated

This headline from today's Washington Post is not good because the verb is not only at the end of the sentence, but it is in past tense. As we learned today, headlines should be in present tense. This headline does not follow the subject, verb, object structure because the object is the first word which is followed by the subject, which is followed by the past tense verb. It does not mislead the readers but I think it could be written much stronger for a paper such as the Post.

Good and Bad Headlines

Sharon Choi

Bad headline: Hospital Board Refuses To Resign
Article link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/25/AR2007062501889.html

This headline is from an article in the Metro section of today's Post. My initial reaction to this headline was, 'Board refuses to resign?' Obviously, the article is not going to be about a physical board, perhaps wooden, that refuses to resign. In order to prevent this kind of confusion, the headline should have used something like 'board of directors.' A more specific subject would have cleared up any confusions in the headline.

Good headline: Attacker Kills 4 Sunni Sheiks Who Aided U.S.
Article link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/26/world/middleeast/26iraq.html

This headline is from an article in the World section of the New York Times. I like this one because it is summarizes the article with a simple subject-verb-object format. There are no words or phrases that may confuse readers. It is very straightforward with what it wants to say.

Good & Bad Headlines

A. Bad headline: "Shaq attacks fat"

I found this on the home page of www.washingtonpost.com in the television section. Although the full story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/19/AR2007061901498.html?hpid=features1&hpv=national) has a different (better) headline, this headline is more impotant because it helps determine whether readers click through to the story.

I assume that editors at the Washington Post were looking for something short and catchy. "Shaq attacks fat" is both, but it doesn't really make sense. What does it even mean for someone to attack fat? Is he perhaps verbally attacking fat? (But what else? Supporting fat? This reminds me of the "dry wood best for burning" headline.) The headline is also too vague. Whose fat is Shaq attacking? His own? Someone else's?

Another bad headline: "Court Rules for Cleaners In $54 Million Pants Suit"

This is in the metro section on www.washingtonpost.com. This headline caught my eye becuse it has the same "suit problem" as one of the headlines we talked about in class. This has become a big enough story that many (if not most) people would immediately understand the headline, but there is still the risk that readers would confuse "suit" for clothing instead of a legal case-- or at least a risk of slowing the reader down, which you always want to avoid, especially online.

See the full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/25/AR2007062500443.html?nav=hcmodule.

B. Good headline: "Deputy Mayor Robbed at Gunpoint"

This headline is also from www.washingtonpost.com's metro section. This is an effective headline because it is immediately understandable and attention-grabbing. The headline is appropriate for the tone and content of the story; it doesn't use any cute phrases. Instead, it is to-the-point and informative.

It is important that the headline refers to the deputy mayor by his title rather than his name since it is reasonable to assume that the majority of readers have not heard of Victor Reinoso. The use of the word "gunpoint" is also effectice because of the image it conjures up. It gives the headline a dramatic edge without going overboard.

See the full story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062600732.html?nav=hcmoduletmv.

Good/Bad Headline

The Good.
Hilton Out of Jail, Back in the Big House
This headline is classic. It is a great play on words and addresses a not so serious subject with a not so serious headline. If a major news source like The Post is going to cover a story like Paris Hilton on their home page, then they have to make it catchy.

The Bad.

Man Accused of Murdering Jessie Davis Called Another Woman the Night She Was Last Heard From.

This headline is confusing. Without prior knowledge of the story, a reader would be seriously confused. The pronoun "she" could apply to Jessie Davis or another woman. Also, the headline ends in a preposition, which is grammatically tacky. The headline is also too long, which adds to the confusion.

Good/Bad Headlines

Brian Katkin

Good Headline

Three Hours at a Big Fat Kashmiri Wedding
Chaos, Calm and Copious Cuisine

By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 24, 2007; Page A14

This headline was found in the Washington Post on Sunday, June 24, 2007 in the newspaper's main news section. In my opinion, I thought this headline was catchy. It plays off the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The article details a wedding in India, during Kashmir's wedding season. Due to some of the similarities between the movie and the description of the wedding in this article, I think the headline is appropriate and uses popular culture to bring in readers. The mood of the article is light, therefore, I think it is OK to use a playful headline.


Bad Headline

Some Details Are Presented By Prosecution

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; Page B02

This headline was found in the Washington Post on Tuesday, June 26, 2007 in the newspaper's Metro section. In my opinion, this headline is very vague and ambiguous. What does it mean that "some" details have been presented by the prosecution? I think because the editor downplayed the importance of the details that the prosecution presented, readers may glance over the story because they may think, "If the type of details were not even important enough to go in the headline, then why should I read the entire story?" A better headline might read "Misfilings About Donations, Dates Among Details Presented By Prosecution." This headline would better inform the reader what the article is really about.


Good vs. Bad News Headlines

Good News Headline
A 'Hole' Lot of Traffic Tie-Ups
By Adam Leech

I like this headline a lot since the word 'hole' is a play-on-word that takes on double-meaning. It can refer to the 'hole' which it is literally discussing the big hole that is in the middle of the street causing traffic mayhem. Though, if you read the title out loud, one may interpret the situation as a 'whole' lot of problem, referring to the vastness and enormity of the problem. Regardless of which meaning you take on, it makes sense; the overall use of the word is quite witty. It is grammar error free. It is also brief and concise, and it can stand alone without confusing the readers.

Bad News Headline
Excerpt: 'Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women'
Dr. Christine B. Whelan Proves That Intelligent Women Can Find a Husband and Happiness

I find this headline to be quite obvious to the average reader. Nothing really captures the attention of the audience or motivates them to read further; it's just too simple and quite frankly, very boring and perhaps stupid. I'm also surprised that this news story comes from ABC News, which is a prominent news organization. I've read better headlines and expected more from ABC News.

Critiquing News Site Headlines

Please find a good and not-so-adept headline on one or more news Web sites (English-language only, please), and diplomatically explain the pros and cons of each, based on points discussed in class. Please list both the URL and the headline for each, along with some explanation.