Friday, August 5, 2011

Arianna Huffington commits heinous, I say heinous, act

It's been said that the Internet is killing the newspaper industry. Alas and alack, I say, looka here, it certainly, I say looka here I say,  has contributed to the elimination of ink stains if not of ink stained wretches. Be that, I say I say, as it may, looka here I say -- excuse me, Mister Leghorn -- the Huffington Post is killing the craft of headline writing.

A little foreshadowing may be in order. Numerous entries ago I noted my confusion over a headline that included the name of a popular Christian music band that I had never heard of. A commenter noted that the band's name might have been included in the headline because someone searching the Internet might type in the band's name and be directed to the article; hence, increased visibility, I say I say.

Which brings me to Arianna Huffington, a.k.a. Huffington Shmuffington. Ever since the Huffandpuffpost was bought by AOL for several gazillion dollars, there has been a proliferation of headlines featuring the names of people and places that nobody has ever heard of, or if anybody had heard of them, they could neither spell nor pronounce them. Names like Anders Whatsisface Breivik and places like Svalberg.

I say looka here, what's in a name? In the sports department of a newspaper, a name is something to have fun with. A-Roid. An A-Bomb from A-Rod (okay, that's an announcer's appellation, but I love it anyway). The news desk, at least one on which I spent several years, tends to handle the names of people with a little more A-plomb. I can still recall some 15 to 18 years ago the debate that rivaled Lincoln-Douglas or Nixon-Kennedy over whether to identify Leona Helmsley by her first name in a headline. The editors begrudgingly yielded, and Leona became a staple of the headline writer's craft.

But a headline is supposed to tell a story, maybe entertain a reader, maybe entice some poor sap into reading a story that isn't worth reading. The message of the Huffpost is that none of the above is any longer applicable. The sole purpose of the headline is to tag a story and you better remember that or you can go back to the Podunk Tumbleweed instead of working for Her Huffingtonness.

Headline Guy cuts to chase

Allow me to cut to the chase. Just today, some examples:

Connecticut Babysitter Loni Bouchard Arrested For Allegedly Having Sex With 14-Year-Old

Loni who?

Rudolf Alexandrov, Chesnut Hill Adjunct Professor, Kills Himself In Front Of His Students

(Now looka, I say looka here, I just googled Rudolf Alexandrov, and guess what came up number 2, right behind the CBS News story which only identified him as a Philly professor in the headline)

James Moss Sentenced To Weekends In Prison For Putting Son In Oven

Alan Gross Trial: Cuba Upholds 15-Year Sentence

Here I am trying to help people write clever headlines when the trend is screw clever, tag the story in the headline and get an edge over the saps who only tag the story in the section that says "tags". Search engine optimization. Damn the headliner writer's creativity. I have seen the present and it sucks.

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