Headlines that suck

There’s informative, provocative, funny, witty, vulgar and “tries too hard” when it comes to headlines.
Then there’s the shit heap. That’s the only way to describe these. Is it a lack of effort? A warped sense of what journalism is? A simple boneheaded mistake? Mistaking the need to grab readers’ attention while forgetting the need to also inform? Editors too afraid to speak up? Editors who no longer exist? Who knows — it could be all or none.

The worst thing is that these are just ones I encountered during the past week. Old-line media is determined to embarrass itself right to the end.

  • “Top head quits after sex-film revelations” (The Guardian, Oct. 10, 2008) — Now, it’s not that the Guardian described a school leader resigning because of a sex film he was involved with. No, it’s because it’s misleading at best: Another employee filmed a student having sex, and this guy employed that “filmmaker.”
    Not a good situation, but it should be obvious that this headline says the “top head,” or boss, starred in, filmed or otherwise possessed sex films, and tried to hide that truth. None of that is true, and so this top hed sucks, even if it’s an old one I only saw recently.

  • “Nuclear power legislation melts down in Ky. House” (AP, via Bloomberg BusinessWeek, March 22, 2010) — It’s not funny, it’s not intelligent, and it’s not even a good metaphor. The legislation was introduced but never acted upon, and it appears the bill will remain that way. I’m not sure what a bill’s meltdown would look like, but being dormant isn’t it. What is clear, however, is that the headline writer is too busy giving his opinion on nuclear power to think about anything else.
  • “Cross-dressing felon nabbed after skirting police effort” (The Tampa Tribune, March 17, 2010) — At first glance, this headline did make me chuckle. But, wait, the guy’s a felon. The chase might be for a serious reason. So, I read on. Wanted on warrants for “armed burglary, battery and aggravated assault.” Rams his vehicle into three police cars, leading them to fire at him out of safety concerns. Getting wounded, but ditching the car and escaping, leaving behind — of course — his gun. He threatened a young woman, essentially committing a home invasion. And, oh yeah, he previously served time for charges including “fleeing and eluding.”
    But yeah, let’s focus on the cross-dressing jokes.
    One last note: Look at the URL — the words at the end are “Tampa-police-shoot-suspect.” Somebody was thinking, at least at one point.
  • “China in “great leap forward” for gas” (Reuters, March 17, 2010) — This one pops up a decent amount on the wire services, at least in recalling my newspaper days. Even The New York Times employs it on a topics page and twice in stories since August 2008.
    The Great Leap Forward, in China, was an economically disastrous program that was even more devastating for anyone concerned with human welfare, survival, political treatment or the actions of despots. The dead numbered between 16.5 million and 40 million. So it’s not a catch-all for a series of swift technological and economic advances. To use it as such is insulting, not to mention incorrect.
    Especially in a fashion story. Geez.

A consolation prize goes to this headline, which isn’t sucky so much as it is unnecessary: “Freida Pinto not cast as Bond girl.”

Photo credit: HotBlack via http://www.sxc.hu

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