Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Headlines Shouldn't Be Heartless

With the good, there always comes the bad. The Internet is bringing news faster -- but at what cost?

People don't have hours to spend reading each and every article that pops up in news feeds. As a result, web editors have gone to extreme efforts to make sure their articles aren't overlooked.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed just how much editors have tried to catch readers' eyes. Here is the proof:

Rick Sanchez: Jon Stewart A 'Bigot,' Jews Run CNN & All Media
All I read is a bunch of charged words mixed into one.

Man, Good Thing Hitler Didn't Have These! Government takes invading privacy to a whole new level.
I was disgusted by this one. Yes, let's look back and brainstorm what Hitler could have done with today's technology. Maybe he would have killed everyone.

Convicted Nazi war criminal allowed out on shopping trips
It's a shame a genuine article was hidden behind a ridiculous headline.

Man Shoots Himself in Head While Trying to Kill Skunk
Way to turn an unfortunate situation into a joke. It's completely distasteful.
Readers online are surfers or scanners, much more so than readers of print, perhaps because it takes 25 percent longer to read online than it does in print. Researches Jakob Nielsen and John Morkers found that 79 percent of those they tested scanned a new page they came across; only 16 percent read the copy word for word.
-- News Reporting and Writing, Eight Edition.

Now, I get why editors write these type of headlines, I mean they definitely work; Every one of these headlines caught my attention and I ended up clicking on them.

HOWEVER, I went into each article with a negative interest. I wanted to see if the article was good enough to justify that type of outrageous -- and sometimes offensive -- title.

Headline writing is an art. Those who are able to convey the meaning of a story in a limited number of words are valuable members of the staff. If the headline is dull and lifeless, few will be attracted to your story; if it sparkles, the story's exposure will be increased.
-- News Reporting and Writing, Eight Edition

I don't have a solution (not sure if there is one) but this is something that has started to bother me. Call me old school, but I applaud the editors who can write witty headlines that aren't offensive, like Survey on America's Sexual Habits: We're Getting Friskier,  and dislike the headlines that emphasize race and religion -- In California, illegal housekeepers are no shock

How low will editors go? Here are some tips on how to write good headlines:

Making an impact — accurately

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work


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