Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Like several commenters, on reading this Kevin Drum post I immediately thought of the New York Post's classic headline: "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar". There's some other great ones in comments, but I particularly like this story:
A Miami Herald editor lost his job over a hed he wrote for a story about Pope John Paul II getting a colostomy after being shot. It ran in just one edition:I came across that NY Post headline in this terrific Christopher Hitchens piece on fictional portrayals of journalists.
Il Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
In [Michael Frayn's] The Tin Men, published in 1965, there are some boozers and louts and misfits, to be sure. But the brilliance of the thing lay in its attempt to reduce the business of hackery to an exact formula. At a demented research institute named for William Morris, eager eyes gaze at a computer that can handle UHL, or "Unit Headline Language". A survey is conducted, in which people are shown the random headlines:
ROW HOPE MOVE FLOP
LEAK DASH SHOCK
HATE BAN BID PROBE
A total of 86.4 % of those responding say that they understand the headlines, though of this total a depressing number cannot quite say why. Thus the search must go on. Would people like to read about air-crashes with children's toys in the wreckage, or without children's toys in the wreckage? In the case of a murder of a woman, should the victim be naked or partially clad? Frayn re-summons the tones of old Fleet Street into this laboratory of shame, when the questing researcher Goldwasser is brusquely accosted by his vile assistant Nobbs: " 'Do you prefer a female corpse to be naked, or to be clad in underclothes?' he repeated to Goldwasser. 'That's what I call a good question, mate. That's what I call a good question.' "