What's in a Headline?
Today's editions of the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press present an excellent oppourunity to understand the value of a good headline. I would argue that headlines are perhaps the most under-appreciated part of print journalism, but indeed are an immensely important compenent in creating an well-rounded product of high-quality journalism.
Of course, a good headline means very little without a quality story attached, but conversely, a good story can go overlooked when it lacks a headline that successfully engages the reader.
In today's editions, for example, both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press prominently featured the same Associated Press article on their front pages, but with significantly different headlines.
The Star Tribune headline read, "Ignoring veto threat, House passes bill to pull out troops." Compare that with the Pioneer Press' headline, "Withdraw deadline passes House."
The difference is clear. In this instance, the Star Tribune clearly succeeded in intruiging the reader with its headline by highlighting the conflict within the story. The Pioneer Press, on the other hand, failed to utilize its headline as a tool to clarify to the reader that this story is more just another boring piece of legislative journalism. I find it incredible that both papers share the same story, but that the Star Tribune headline manages to make the story seem so much more attractive.
The difficulty in creating an excellent headline is endless. Editors constantly have to toil with space limitations that prevent the use of certain words and syntax structures. Furthermore, the have to walk the fine line between catchy and corny, informative and wordy, and accurate and interesting. I would just about call it an artform.