OK, earlier this week they posted these headlines on the AP Newswire:
TIPPER GORE TO TOP NATION’S CHRISTMAS TREE FOR PERHAPS LAST TIME
NURSE GIVES BIRTH TO BABY AFTER BEING STABBED WITH NEEDLE
and I figured, OK, they just never proofread. But today I see this story:
MOSCOW (AP) - American businessman Edmond Pope was found guilty by a Moscow court Wednesday of illegally obtaining classified blueprints for a high-speed torpedo and sentenced to 20 years in prison, the Interfax news agency reported.
and the headline?
POPE SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON
Now, they’re just TRYING to be cute . . .
Headlines are supposed to (a) fit the available space and (b) summarize the story, and if possible © be witty, an attention getter. Although sometimes the headline writers attempt to become wits and get only halfway there…
I agree with you that the first two could have benefitted from proofreading. The third is an example of my last sentence above.
Which reminds me of two stories:
First, courtesy of Bp. John Shelby Spong: The Episcopal Church Bishop of Fort Worth was an intensely conservative High Church man with the surname of Pope. After some years in the episcopate, he converted to the Church of Rome. A bit later, feeling he was not getting enough respect there, he switched back to Episcopalianism. Which led the Fort Worth papers to headline: POPE BECOMES CATHOLIC and POPE LEAVES CATHOLIC CHURCH. Since he had been a controversial, newsworthy figure in the area, and would be known by his surname, those two strike me as good on-target wit.
Second, as many scholars of church or art history are aware, the original Laurentius (St. Lawrence) was an early church martyr who was put to death by being roasted over an open fire on a grid of the sort the Romans did barbecues on. His reputed last words were, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”
In St. Lawrence County, New York, are several colleges, including St. Lawrence University (one of the rare schools retaining ties to the UU church) and a miniscule Catholic seminary. A dropout from the latter joined the local newspaper as a sportswriter, as SLU’s absymally bad football team suffered a total rout (they later dropped football from their intercollegiate sports). His story had perhaps the perfect headline: ST. LAWRENCE MARTYRED ON GRIDIRON.
Har! Do you read The Lower Case, on the last page of the Columbia Journalism Review (“Why, of course, I have my copy right here!” everyone says in unison)? They feature hilarious press goof-ups. Hey, why doesn’t The New Yorker have those anymore?
In high school, I reviewed a school production of the operetta “The Medium,” just so I could title the review “MEDIUM WELL DONE.”
The Columbia Journalism review put out a compilation of those flubs a few years ago. I think the title was Red Tape Holds up Bridge, but I could be wrong.
There are two collections, RED TAPE HOLDS UP BRIDGE and SQUAD HELPS DOG BITE VICTIM. Both brilliant and hilarious—wish they’d put out another, but I guess those (both over ten years old) didn’t make enough profit.