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Headlines hook readers, AM class

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  1. Rachael Ruybalid
    November 17, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    “College Ivy Sprouts at a Connecticut Prison”

    This headline was published in the New York Times under the NY/Region section. It made me want to follow up by reading the story. (The story was really good by the way) You talked in class about “S” words and how s words can create a great visual picture for the reader. This headline, using the term “sprouts” is a perfect example of that. I can picture the little ivy plants sprouting up along the wall of the prison.
    Giving that the story was about a new college program for prisoners that Wesleyan is offering, the verb choice here is what makes this headline powerful and attractive. It’s a play on so called ivy-league colleges and it’s not hard to understand. You can tell what the story is going to be about before you even read the lede.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/college-ivy-sprouts-at-a-connecticut-prison/?ref=nyregion

  2. Megan Brincks
    November 17, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I found a headline in the Tuesday, November 17, 2009, New York Times. The headline read “This little piggie…” and a tag line read “May not always be ‘teacup’ size.” I was interested in this headline because I wanted to know what the story was about.

    I think this headline works because it’s a play on a children’s nursery rhyme, but the tag line told me more about the story. Just from those two lines I can guess that the story is about pigs as pets and what happens when they grow up. The tone of this headline told me that it’s not a serious story. I think that if they had used a serious headline, it would have been completely in conflict with the light tone of the story.

  3. Erin Starkebaum
    November 18, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I was browsing through various Web sites and found a link to unusual headlines. In the link I found a story with the headline “Hippo eats dwarf.” The dateline says Bangkok, but I cannot tell what newspaper it was published in. The story was originally under the headline “Freak accident” in the Grapevine column of the Pattaya Mail, an English paper in Thailand.
    Coming from the “Grapevine” makes me a little skeptical, but I think the story is real. Either way, the headline “Freak accident” makes me what to read more to find out what happened. Freak accidents in themselves are intriguing.
    The article with the headline “Hippo eats dwarf” summarizes that story that appeared in the Pattaya Mail and uses its “Freak accident” headline in its story.
    The headline “Hippo eats dwarf” is very effective because it draws your attention and leaves you in disbelief so that you have to read the article to find out if it’s true and what exactly happened. It uses the key words of the story and actually sums up the whole situation in just three short words.
    The headline is not libelous because hippos cannot sue a newspaper, as far as I know. And it is not offensive because the dwarf that was eaten was not referred to as a midget, which is offensive as we learned earlier this semester.

    Here is the article that appeared in the Pattaya Mail so you can all read it:

    Freak accident
    A circus dwarf, nicknamed Od, died recently in the North when he bounced sideways from a trampoline and was swallowed by a yawning hippopotamus which was waiting to appear in the next act. Vets on the scene said Hilda the Hippo had a gag reflex which automatically caused her to swallow. They added in mitigation that the hefty creature was a vegetarian who had not previously digested a circus performer. Unfortunately, the 1000 plus spectators continued to applaud wildly until common sense dictated there had been a tragic mistake. Police said the trampoline has been sent for forensic analysis.

  4. Lacey Mason
    November 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I have found that the Daily Nebraskan usually has headlines that appeal to me. I think that is probably because it is a younger newspaper that isn’t as afraid to take risks – because they have less to lose.

    The headline I chose this time was “All Strung Out.” The headline is accompanied by a couple of cartoon pictures of men playing instruments. The headline was referring to a ChamberFest showcase for students. I honestly wouldn’t be interested in reading this story typically. I thought this headline was a lot of fun though. I thought it was edgy and a bit risky. “All strung out,” is a reference which typically refers to someone who is on drugs. In this case though, the story was referring to the playing of instruments and who had been practicing very hard for their upcoming concert.
    What works for me in this headline is not necessarily a specific word, but the headline as a whole since it is a play on words. I like that it is silly, fun and clever. I find it interesting when sayings are turned around and given a more literal meaning because it forces us to examine what the words actually mean verses what the phrase has come to stand for in our society.

  5. Carly Shinn
    November 23, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    “Oh, Christmas fees
    A holiday jolt for airfares”

    This article appeared in the weekend edition of USA Today. With the holiday season beginning, this headline immediately caught my attention because it played on the popular Christmas song and because I am typically attracted to headlines that are clever and play on popular culture references. The story was about the price increases travelers can expect during the holiday season so the headline and story were not only timely, but relevant. The second part of the headline, “A holiday jolt for airfares” was needed to help describe what fees the story would be talking about, but I do not necessarily find “jolt” to be be the best word choice here.

  6. Becky Gailey
    November 23, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I found the headline “Football fever turns nasty in Cairo” on cnn.com on Nov. 20. The alliterative “football fever” combines with “turns nasty” to create an interesting headline that made me want to read the story. When I clicked on the link to the story, I was imagining the standard story about crazy sports fans that drink a little too much and riot after a game. This, however, was much more than that. After Egypt lost its World Cup qualifier match to Algeria, Egyptians rioted in the streets outside of the Algerian embassy in Cairo. Violence increased when the Algerian government fined an Egyptian television company and a newspaper released a photo that made it seem as if an Algerian football fan had attacked an Egyptian woman with a knife. All of this violence and racial tension, while it certainly had earlier roots, resulted from a soccer game. I think the headline “Football fever turns nasty in Cairo” does a much better job of capturing the emotion of the events than a less creative headline like “Football fans riot in Egypt.”

  7. Christa Masters
    November 23, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    “Russian Billionaire Buys Hitler’s Vintage Benz”

    I found this headline at FOXNews.com on November 23, 2009. I like how the headline is straight forward, and tells me everything I need to know. If I was scrolling through headlines on my Blackberry or iPod, I would read it. It’s not the headline that makes me want to read on, it’s the subject of the story makes me want to go further. If the headline was more complicating I would probably not consider reading it at all. If the writer would have decided to include Mercedes the headline would be lengthier than what a typical headline should be. The verb “buys” is plain, but anything different is a mouthful. For example, Russian Billionaire Purchases Hitler’s Vintage Benz. Mainly I am compelled to headlines that don’t include jargon, and tell me everything that I need to know without reading the story. It might be the era I was born into, but I cannot take the time to read the entire newspaper; The headline should do it for me.

  8. Victoria Grdina
    November 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    “Adam Lambert: cool, calm, eclectic.”

    I found this article about my favorite American Idol contestant in the LA Times last week. I thought the headline was short, sweet, and clever…and remembered it a week after I read it for this assignment – which I think says something about it’s attractiveness…or maybe it’s because I just take good mental notes on good headlines now. 😀

    I think with some feature articles…especially ones on celebrities,

  9. Victoria Grdina
    November 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    —–Take 2. I accidentally hit the ‘submit’ button before. Oops.

    “Adam Lambert: cool, calm, eclectic.”

    I found this article and album preview about my favorite American Idol contestant in the LA Times last week. I thought the headline was short, sweet, and clever…and remembered it a week after I read it for this assignment – which I think says something about it’s attractiveness…or maybe it’s because I just take good mental notes on good headlines now.

    I think with some feature articles, especially ones on famous people, groups, or subjects, it can be hard to interest a reader who isn’t already interested. Some people won’t read it if they don’t care about whomever or whatever it is, regardless of what the headline says, and the best thing a newspaper can do is try to attract as many readers as they can by coming up with a clever headline and possibly a cool photo.

    The other thing I liked about this headline was that it needed to fit across a rather skinny column, and often times headlines are even more challenging when space becomes a factor. I thought the short and clever play on the cliche worked well. I came across a few similar articles in other papers last week as well, and they all had really lackluster headlines. This one stuck out to me and I think it likely did to others as well.

  10. Bethany Trueblood
    November 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

    A headline that interested me was in the Nov. 16 Daily Nebraskan Arts and Entertainment section. The headline read “Calling All Angels.” I thought it a bit religious and wanted to know what a headline like this was doing in a campus newspaper. The tagline read “UNL Grad Student Fighting Cancer Gains Support.” The article goes on to describe how friends, family and classmates have been helping Francis, a grad student with cancer, get through this time. The headline ties in well with the name of a theater company called Angels Theater Company through which donations were being given for medical bills (Francis is a theater student). Although the headline seemed cliche at first, I found it to be appropriate and intriguing, especially since it is relevant to the name of the theater company that was taking donations for Francis.

  11. Laura Maricle
    November 24, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Headlines should be an original, complete enticement to a news story. I selected the headline “Two executed over tainted milk” in the “Latest News” column on CNN’s home page. After clicking on the headline to read the story, the headline changes to “Two executed in China over tainted milk.” The story is about two men China’s government executed for being involved in tainted milk, which killed at least 6 babies and harmed 300,000 others. I like the headline because it is easy to understand and interesting. “Executed” is a strong verb. The headline isn’t too long. It sums up the story and makes me want to know more. Who was executed? Why were they executed over a milk scandal? How does a scandal over milk occur? The headline made me ask these questions, so I clicked to read the story, which is the ultimate goal of an online headline.

  12. Michael Todd
    November 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

    After an ultimately fruitless search through the past couple issues of the DN, I found my headline on the Newseum Front Pages site. In The Gazette, out of Colorado Springs, the main story was “Business at prison snags fine catch.”

    “Snag,” for one thing is the perfect verb, very active and colorful. And because it could operate on a more sinister level with its connotations, playing to the darker prison side, it’s an effective linguistic trick.

    It couples with “catch” to make the headline a sort of double entendre that is soon struck down with the accompanying photo. If it weren’t for that, or the short deck head, readers could gloss over “fine” and not catch the reference to fishing. For my part, before seeing the whole package as one, the headline made me think of Red in “Shawshank Redemption,” how he ran a business of sorts inside the prison, and in this case, someone’s personal business had caught a snag.

    The headline is a reversal of that phrase, “caught a snag,” but considering the way the mind works, it’s these loose connections that copy editors should be aware of when writing headlines. In addition to checking for innuendo, copy editors should write headlines, then try to come back to them a few minutes later so these random associative thoughts could occur to them, just to make sure confusion won’t arise.

    Also, it’s worth mentioning that the headline doesn’t fall into the easy trap and borrow from the lead or the nut graph, which are both very effective in and of themselves:

    “They are born and raised in prison.
    Next stop is death row.”

  13. Taylor Kessner
    November 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I was sent a link to an article published yesterday on the dailymail.co.uk, the Web site for United Kingdom paper The Daily Mail. The article was about a man who after being misdiagnosed as comatose after a car accident paralyzed him, spent 23 years of his life conscious, but unable to tell doctors he was awake. He was trapped in his own body.
    The article’s headline read, “’I screamed, but there was nothing to hear’: Man trapped in 23-year ‘coma’ reveals horror of being unable to tell doctors he was conscious.”
    The content of the story was sickening. I can’t imagine a situation more analogous to Hell on Earth. This articles head did a great job portraying this man’s horror in a way only a quote can.
    While it doesn’t work for all stories, or even most stories, a quote is sometimes the best way to grab a reader’s attention.
    I also think the word horror makes the reader of the headline want to read on. It’s a word of transposition. “What if that happened to me,” I thought when I read it. I think the word choice, especially in the word horror, does a good job of giving the reader empathy for the man in the story.
    Overall, it was a good headline with a quote that haunted me for the rest of the day.

  14. Andrew J. McClure
    November 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

    The USA Today Life section had a headline on the front page sidebar that said “Victoria’s Secrets are Revealed.” This was extremely interesting to me. I always thought that the name Victoria’s Secret was funny and so anytime there is a play on words about her secret being revealed, it draws me in, and I’m sure does the same for other people.

    The actual article itself mainly focused on Heidi Klum returning from having a baby to walking on a runway show. So the headline drew me in, but the actual story wasn’t interesting to me.

    However, I think this proves the point that you don’t need to have a catchy photograph to draw readers in. A good headline can make people read the story, without knowing whether they will enjoy the story or not.

    Good headline, boring story (to me).

  15. Pat Radigan
    November 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I was looking through ESPN the day after college football Saturday and a headline caught my eye, “Weis: ‘6-5 not good enough'”. I clicked on the story confused because it seemed like it couldn’t be true that the man who was fighting for his job as head football coach at Notre Dame was calling his performance not good enough. What it turned out being was a story about his comments he made when he first took the job about the previous coaches record, and a reporter asked him if he thought now that his 6-5 record was good enough, and he actually agreed it wasn’t good enough. I liked this headline a lot because it jumped right into the most interesting part of the press conference, rather than just being a general headline that questioned his job safety.

    In this same vane, I think this shows the diversity a headline writer needs to be able to have. In addition to straight news headlines that summarize a story that a reader may be interested in, headline writers need to be able to read a story and be able to capture the tone and feeling of the story, while properly portraying what the story is about. Overall, I think great headline writing is a combination of creativity, knowledge and an ability to capture the feeling of a story in a brief amount of words.

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