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The Lost Art of Headline Writing

What are all those English majors from small, liberal-arts colleges to do? As old-school newspaper jobs dry up and, in the SEO age, copy editors are no longer expected to help write headlines, Gene Weingarten poses this very question in his latest op-ed for The Washington Post. “The only really creative opportunity copy editors had was writing headlines, and they took it seriously,” writes Weingarten. Some of his examples: “CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR” (when the Senate was unable to convict President Clinton) and “KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE” (when a meteor avoided hitting Earth). Now such opportunities for wordplay seem to be disappearing. Digital journalism, argues Weingarten, is creating headlines that are “dull but utilitarian.” In other words, headlines are not designed to maximize creativity. Rather, they’re designed to maximize clicks.