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Headlines should hook readers

Writing headlines is truly an art form. It’s not easy to capture the meaning of a story in just a few words. And the best headline writers know their job is intrigue  readers, making them want to know more. Anne Glover, of the St. Petersburg Times, offers simple tips for writing strong headlines. The best headlines are clever without going overboard. Michael Nelson, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star, recently wrote a column about a headline in his paper that he thought went too far and ended up misleading readers.

Your assignment: Find a headline that you like. I’m assuming it makes you want to read the story? Tell me what the headline says, where the headline was published, and why you like it. What do you think makes it work? Is it the word choice? The verb? The tone? Be specific. Post your responses in the comments section for your section by the beginning of class Tuesday, Nov. 24.

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  1. Courtney Pitts
    November 19, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I thought it might be tough to find a snappy headline, but it didn’t take more than a few clicks to find something catchy on Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages. I stumbled across a headline from the Los Angeles Daily News. It reads in bold font: H1N1 shot tops Santa’s Christmas list. Above the headline in a smaller font it says: You better not cough.
    The story is from the Associated Press; however, I’m guessing the Daily News staff wrote the actual headline.
    The headline works, because it’s relevant in more than one way. The holiday season has started and H1N1 vaccines have been on a lot of people’s mind. The headline sparks my interest, because it makes me ask: “What’s this story about?” and “Why would Santa need a vaccine?”
    The word choice is definitely clever. What really nabbed me was the “You better not cough,” which is a great play on a favorite childhood Christmas carol.
    The headline is playful and matches the clever angle of the story.
    According to the article, health officials want to give Santas around the nation the H1N1 vaccine. After all, Santas meet dozens of sneezing children during the holiday season.
    A lot of newspapers are talking about the H1N1 vaccine, and I’m sure it’s easy for people to ignore the update stories on the virus. The Daily News catches people’s attention, makes them smile and then shows them a new angle to the long-running news topic.

    HERE’S THE LINK IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED: http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/hr.asp?fpVname=CA_DN&ref_pge=gal&b_pge=1

  2. Kat Ladwig
    November 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    The headline that most caught my eye was from the Sunday edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The main story was about Sgt. Jesse Lhotka of Appleton, Minn., who was killed in combat in 2005. The focus was small town heroes killed while serving our country in the war.

    The headline read “They come from small towns. They’re fall to crude bombs.” The second sentence is in gray font, like it is faded and is especially effective with the large graphic of Lhotka’s family members outside on a dreary, overcast day. The serious images and straightforward font along with the headline made me want to read the article right away. Though the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan has been going on for years and numerous servicemen have lost their lives, the story of the unsung hero never gets old when the article, headline and images are captivating to the reader.

    Link: http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/hr.asp?fpVname=MN_PP&ref_pge=gal&b_pge=5

  3. November 23, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    My headline came from the Omaha World Herald and really, was quite simple to find.

    “House of hungry kids strains budget” really caught my eye and made me want to read more. Had it not been for the picture, along with the snappy, but specific headline, I probably would not have been intrigued.

    I’m glad this headline caught my eye because it’s an awesome story! Short, but sweet, this story is really what the headline says, 8 hungry kids plus mom and dad and animals, yet they all find time for each other and love each other. It’s an inspiring story and one I’m very happy I read.

  4. Alain Nguyen
    November 24, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Woman mooning over teen ‘Twilight’
    Vampire romance
    Sucks in moms, too
    The headline that caught my attention was titled Women mooning over teen ‘Twilight’: Vampire romance sucks in moms, too. It was published in the USA Today newspaper on Monday, November 23, 2009 in the Arts and Entertainment on page 3D. The gist of the article is about the phenomenal of Twilight and how not only is it attraction the tween/teen audience but it’s also attracting adults, especially mothers. The article talks about how “it has been three days since The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened, and it’s increasingly obvious that adult – even mature – women are making as much nose as teen girls over this tale of a great love between a teenage girl a vampire, with a few werewolf complications.” I like the headline because it ties exactly to what the article is about. I like the word playing of ‘mooning’ and ‘suck’ which references to the theme of the movie about vampires and werewolves. It’s clever without being cheesy. You read the headline and you know exactly what the article is going to be about. It’s also sweet, simple, and to the point which is what a headline should be. It has all the good element s of a good headline.

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