Strong and not so strong headlines

Blog assignment due at the start of class Oct. 22: Please search through news websites you frequent for a strong and not-so-adept headline, based on our recent headline writing discussion. Explain why you think each is good or poor in a Comment under this post. Please be sure to give the full URL and headline for each. Include a sentence or two of constructive comments. Please be sure your criticism is tactful: Our class blog is online for the world to see (although only the class can comment to it.) Please don't write anything you'd be embarrassed by if strangers see -- or if the headline writers see!


Chloe Leshner said...

A not-so good headline that I saw on CNN was “Dancing Bear Gets Escorted out of Game.” I think that this could be mistaken to be a more serious event than it actually was. Although the likelihood of an actual bear making it into a baseball stadium is slim to none, some people could misread this headline and think that a dangerous wild animal was on the loose at the baseball game. I think that it could have been reworded so that it is known that it was a mascot for one of the teams.


A good headline that I saw on the Washington Post website was “House GOP scrambles for support on new funding plan.” This follows the subject verb object format and is straight and to the point. It is very obvious what the story is going to be about. With all of the recent problems with the government shutdown, it is clear that there is not a lot of support for a new funding plan proposed by the House GOP. This also makes it clear to readers that the government shutdown is not close to coming to an end, yet.

Fatimah Waseem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fatimah Waseem said...

Wooing ‘Hometown Industry,’ de Blasio Meets Wary Wall St.

By using powerful alliteration, a direct quote, and two SEO-friendly proper nouns, this headline balances the creativity a good feature deserves and the search engine friendliness an online story requires to drive up click rates.

Boehner tells House GOP that negotiations have ended

Despite using a proper noun and keywords likely to be strong search terms, the headline lacks crispness and fails to include a key element - Boehner is also addressing Obama. A better headline could read, "Boehner: Negotiations between Obama, House GOP End."

Tim Drummond said...

"Finding another way" -The Diamondback

I was surprised to see a headline like this for a news event, even in a student newspaper like The Diamondback. The article is about an event called the Queer Open Mic that was held last week in the atrium of Stamp. It clearly follows very few of the rules we've set out in this class. It does not adhere to the traditional subject-verb-object structure and doesn't use any SEO-friendly search terms. In fact, it's impossible at first glance to even guess whom or what the article is about.

Afghan war’s approaching end throws legal status of Guantanamo detainees into doubt- The Washington Post

To find a well-written headline, you'll rarely need to go past the first page of Washingtonpost.com. The writer/editor takes an extremely complex, nuanced story and condenses the main points into a short, easily digested headline. When the main story involves abstract concepts like war and law, it can be difficult to maintain the subject-verb-object setup, but this headline does so very well. It also contains high-probability search terms like "Guantanamo."

Rachel Barron said...

A not-so-good headline came from The New York Times:
"Tablet Makers Gear Up for Latest Skirmish"

While the headline does summarize what the article is about, the headline writer did not make it very SEO-friendly. In the article, the author mentions brands like Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. However, the headline does not mention any one of these brands. In order for the article to appear high in the search results page, the headline writer should have at least put one of the brand names in the headline. People are much more likely to search for Apple rather than "tablet maker" if they are trying to look for brands that make tablets.

A well-written headline came from The Washington Post:
"Maxwell offers six-month plan for Prince George's schools"

The headline summarizes the article, uses SEO-friendly terms, follows the subject-verb-object structure and is written in present tense. Most importantly are the SEO-friendly terms. By using the name Maxwell and the specific name of the county, the headline writer ensured that the article would appear high up in a search results page. Prince George's is specific enough to be a term that people will search for when looking for information about that particular county. It also helps to include Maxwell's name, instead of just his title, because people are more likely to search for his name than chief executive officer of Prince George's County schools.

Katie Secret said...

One example of a headline I thought was not so well done was the WTOP headline "SUV Strikes 7-year-old in Potomac driveway." I feel that this headline, about a mother accidentally hitting her daughter while backing out of her driveway, could have been written more clearly. This headline does not clarify that the mother was driving and rather makes it seem like it could have been a rogue SUV. It should have said that the mother was driving the SUV and that it was accidental in their own driveway.

An example of a headline that I thought was written well is "Gay Rights Supporters Wage a Quiet Campaign to Push Republicans to the Middle" from the Washington Post. This headline gives the necessary gist of the story without too many unnecessary details. It tells who is doing what: gay rights supporters are taking action to move Republicans to the middle rather than the right.

Danny Golden said...

A not-so strong headline that I saw on ESPN was "Sources: Pot reason Texans cut 3." I understand that headlines take up space and ESPN wanted to get right to the point but this headline doesn't even sound like English. They could have made the headline something like "Sources: Texas cut 3, cite pot smoking as reason," or something to that effect. "Pot reason" just does not fit in this case at all.


A strong headline that I saw was "Prosecutor: American arrested in California planned to assist al-Qaida, aid terrorism," as seen on washingtonpost.com. It is long, yet to the point and it cites exactly who said it, the prosecutor. Because it is about terrorism, I would think that this article got a lot of clicks, but you could get the gist directly from the headline. The writer did a good job of making a strong headline and elaborating in the actual article.


John Borg said...


A headline that I found that could use improvement was “Artist creates faces from DNA left in public,” a CNN article from September 4, 2013. The headline is not very clear on what the article is about. Where is the artist? How does she get the DNA? What does she do with the faces? This is a very interesting story, but the headline does not outline it well enough. Furthermore, it lacks SEO as it would be very hard to for the story since the words in the headline aren’t terms of a well-defined topic.


One headline I saw that I thought was good was “D.C. medical marijuana sales off to slow start,” a Washington Post article from October 21, 2013. The headline clearly and explicitly tells what the proceeding story is about: how the medical marijuana business in DC is not making a lot of money. It also seems to have very good SEO as it has both a proper noun (DC) and a very obvious and searchable topic (medical marijuana).

Jared Wasserman said...

A headline that left something to be desired from ESPN.com is "Redskins' Meriweather banned two for fouls." The way that this is worded could make a casual observer think that Meriweather banned two other players for committing fouls, when in reality he was suspended for two games. As a Redskins fan, I know what the headline is referring to but its message could be made much clearer for those not familiar with the situation. The headline on Yahoo.com about the story was "Redskins' Meriweather suspended 2 games for hits" is longer but gets the message across much better.


A headline from Yahoo.com that I really liked was "Lionfish wreaking havoc on Atlantic Ocean." I personally didn't know what a lionfish was, so the subject of the story immediately grabbed my attention. I also love the powerful verb usage of wreaking havoc-- I think this headline would have a similar affect on other viewers visiting the website.


Dustin Levy said...

Lanny Davis, spin doctor for hire, guides big names through dire straits
I liked this headline because it immediately gave me an idea about who Lanny Davis is and what the story would be about. I thought "spin doctor for hire" was a neat way of describing his job, and "big names through dire straits" gives an idea about the specifics of the jobs Davis has taken on over the years. Overall, I think this headline is a good combination of succinctness and creativity.

Mario Cuomo, Vocal Foe of Italian Stereotyping, Finally Sees ‘The Godfather’
I think this is a pretty lazy headline. As far as creativity, 'The Godfather' has a lot to work with which could work into the headline really well. This is direct, but it does not make me want to read the story at all. I also think "vocal foe" sounds a little too intense for the subject matter and the story itself. Overall, this headline does not make me want to read the story.

Wheres Wendy said...


A not so great headline I saw from the Washington Post was "Civilian drone deaths are far from rare, reports say". It wasn't the actual headline but the Web head that was used before reaching the actual article.

While the reader can deduce that the head is referring to civilian deaths caused by drones, grammatically this headline is describing the regularity of the death of a type of drone. This isn't the worst headline in the world but errors like it are increasingly problematic given the short attention span of readers. Headlines have to be clear and grammatical issues deter from that.

Carol Burnett honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

This is a nice headline--I have the name of the subject, the award and have some context of why she is significant even if I'm not already familiar with her.

Marquis Goodwin said...

Washington Post:
1: Health insurance exchange launched despite signs of serious problems
Of the three this headline was the bad apple. While it expresses the key ideas of the article and can be understood with ease, it lacks key terms. Terms like Obamacare or even the name of the website, which the headline from USA Today does use, are omitted. People searching this topic would use words like affordable care act ,Obamacare or website crash . None of these words are in the title nor the url. From the headline I cannot figure out what type of launch this is or the specific type of health insurance. These flaws would make such a title less than optimal.

USA Today:

2: Kim and Kanye are engaged! (See the ring)

3: HealthCare.gov feeds doubts about rollout: Our view

Both the second and third headlines have all the necessary components to make it search engine friendly and are composed of the content to comprehend precisely what the articles are about.

When someone is in search of whether Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got engaged, they are likely to search some combination of Kim, Kanye, and engaged. They are also likely to be in search of Kim's ring! All these are present in the headline and the headline even makes the viewer aware that here they can also find the images of the ring.

As for headline three the presence of the website url is key. This is likely what people would search when looking for such an article. The headline also makes the viewer aware that the article is an opinion piece prior to opening the link. The one downfall is the headline leaves out Obamacare or its other name, affordable care act. Thankfully these are present in the url so a search of those terms would still bring up this article.

Sung-Min Kim said...

While it's not the actual headline, the Posts's sports page had the title as "Nene back with his second family", which does not give away a lot to readers unfamiliar with who Nene is (player for NBA team Washington Wizards) and the context of him being "back with his second family". The actual headline, "Nene happy to be back with Wizards, but still adjusting to new role", is much clearer and explains the story better.

Good headline:
The headline that is shown on the ESPN's MLB page is "Reds stay in-house, anme Price as manager", which actually give more information to the readers than the actual headline on the page ("Bryan Price named Reds' manager") by mentioning that the MLB team Cincinnati Reds used "in-house" option to find a new skipper. Also, both headlines on this piece are very on-point

Ulysses Munoz said...

Good: "Trusted babysitter pleads guilty to killing Virginia toddler in 2012"

This teaser headline (you click it to get to the actual story) very clearly prepares the reader for what the story is going to be about and likely what the tone will be as well. I actually liked it better than the headline above the actual story, "Babysitter guilty in Virginia toddler’s death."


Not-so-good: "For many young D.C. parents, city schools remain a sticking point"

Tells you where the story is and kind of what it it's about but the headline is kind of confusing and doesn't really say what a "sticking point" is.


Jasmine Song said...


This headline in the Diamondback which read, "Purple Line worries immigrant community," is definitely an example of a weak headline. It is definitely misleading because it isn't clear what the writer is talking about when he mentions the "Purple Line." Only once I began to read the article, did I eventually find out the author was talking about the metro line.


This headline in the Washington Post which reads, "Apple expected to release new iPads ahead of holidays," is an example of a good headline because it is straightforward and directly tells the reader what the story is going to be about.

Dan Servodidio said...
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Natalie Tomlin said...

An example of a good headline is: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/10/22/senator-susan-collins-bipartisan-group-may-tackle-taxes-budget-next/3145985/
This headline from USA Today offers the reader a clear idea of what the story will focus on and it includes the subject-verb-object structure. It also includes a specific name, making it SEO-friendly.

An example of a not-so-good headline is: http://www.diamondbackonline.com/news/local/article_77cb9f92-3a11-11e3-aad1-0019bb30f31a.html While this Diamondback article does get the main point of the article across, I think it lacks the specificity needed to be SEO-friendly. It should include some sort of location to strengthen the headline, like "College Park Crime low compared to last year." This is The Diamondback, so it is most likely talking about a local issue, but it could be about D.C., Prince George's County, or even campus crime. The reader should be aware that it is about the city of College Park. This will also help it come up in search engines when people are looking for information about crime in this specific region.

Elizabeth McKelvy said...

A poor headline that I found was on The Daily Beast news website that read "Cemetery: Remove Spongebob Grave." I don't think this was a good representation of how serious the story was. The story focused on the murder of a soldier by her boyfriend rather than the fact that her grave was in the shape of a cartoon character. I thought it was too lighthearted of a headline for such a serious story and could have definitely been rewritten to better represent the war veteran.


A headline that I found and liked was from the Washington Post yesterday. It read, "Nevada student opens fire outside middle school, wounds 2 boys and kills teacher, then self." I think, although it is long, it includes many facts that people searching this topic will search for and are likely to find. I think that the facts in the headline both set up the story and outline what is most important. People searching on the Internet are looking for facts quickly so having that in the headline is the best way to get through to the reader.