Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Are Headlines Left To Editors?

Here's T.A. Frank pointing out that he didn't write the bombastic headline for his article in the Guardian -- it's "The failed presidency of Barack Obama." And here's Michael Calderone at Brad DeLong's blog saying that "JournoList: Inside the echo chamber" wasn't his idea.

I've always thought it kind of weird that editors, not writers, generally write the headlines for articles. Headlines make a huge difference in how readers understand articles, especially if they're voracious speed-reading bloggers. It's unfortunate that they're controlled by people who usually understand the substance of the article in less depth than the writer, who haven't spent as much time thinking out clever and relevant turns of phrase, whose perspectives on the article are more likely to be idiosyncratic, and whose names don't appear on the final product.

I've heard people say that headlines are seen as a device to advertise the story -- that's what you use to pull readers in, so it should be in the hands of someone who specializes in evaluating reader-pulling phrases rather than the person who produced the content. But if that's what we're going for, we might as well randomly headline foreign policy articles "Lohan, Ronson Capture Osama" or "Obama Confirms Threesome With Olsen Twins" and have done with it.
Post a Comment