Sunday, March 02, 2008

Headline Howlers


Of all the varied professions I have been in, I find the print media job, especially editing, the most stressed out. Some days, news just pours in moments before the page sign offs and the editorial staff have to race against time. During the thick of the things, working under enormous pressure and constraints of font type and size, column lengths, single lines which limit the number of alphabets, the headlines given some times unwittingly create double meanings, different meanings and outright embarrassing howlers. And they pass through at least two levels of validation before they get printed. I too was guilty of such howlers during my stint. Here are a few that I remember to have caused me to smile and sometimes split with laughter.
A recent one on Delhi Police coming down heavily on jaywalkers:-

Police Begin Campaign To Run Down Jaywalkers


A not so recent one on Bush and Iraq

Bush Wins Vote On Iraq, But More Lies Ahead

Headline for a story on the Golf Champion, Tiger Woods using his own golf balls during practice sessions.

Tiger Woods Plays With His Own Balls, Says Nike

Headline for a news item on scraping the bottom of a ship, Queen Mary

Queen Mary Gets Her Bottom Scraped

After packs of dogs have created havoc by attacking students of a college in Hyderabad recently, one newspaper headline said

Squad Helps Dog Bite Victims

Some more gems from the memory lane

Clinton Lies on Lewinsky

Iraq Head Seeks More Arms


Panda Mating Fails - Vet Takes Over

Cold Wave Linked To Rising Temperatures

Two Ships Collide - One Dies

Miners Refuse To Work After Death

Eye Drops Off Shelf

New Vaccine May Contain Rabies

March Planned In May

Crash Courses For Pilots

Man Found Dead In Graveyard

Dead Man Returns

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge


When some two decades back, after a gap of several years the endangered bird, The Great Indian Bustard was sighted, one newspaper headline screamed

The Great Indian Bastard Sighted

There are some great headlines too. There was this village in Kerala where the villagers unanimously resolved not go to movie theatres. The headline was

Hicks Nix Pix

There are some like this one passed on to me as legendary by a distinguished senior editor, now no more. In fact this gentleman had taunted me when I was a sub (cub) editor to give a catchy headline to the following one line story:-
“A lunatic has sex with a nurse and escapes from the asylum.”

I tried several but none could satisfy him. The catchy one, he said was

Nut Screws, Bolts.

It is a different matter though that one day, actually night, the same gentleman has put a file photograph of late Sanjay Gandhi on the front page instead of Rajiv Gandhi who was on a visit to the state. That too overruling the persistent objections of a junior on the same page duty. I can never forget the face of our executive editor and the chief editor the next morning.

Print Media can be not only informative but also entertaining at times.

1 comment:

Gupta VSP said...

Very nice article. The best one is "Nut screws, Bolts"