1. Look at the front page of today's newspaper
(Daily, Strib or Pioneer Press). Which headlines do you think would work well
online and get you to click through the story, and which would not work well.
Explain your reasoning in no more than 100 words for each headline. Tell
me which newspaper and date you used.
2. Take the lead story from today's Daily (tell me the day you used) and summarize it in fewer than 160 characters (not words--and, spaces count as characters). Ask a friend if he or she thinks that's enough to know what's going on. Did they or didn't they? Why or why not?
I looked at the Minnesota Daily's front page for March 4.
The unclear headline, "University officials consider furloughs" would not convince me to click through the story--are the officials considering the implementation of it or considering the fact that they will be taking days off? Fortunately, the summary paragraph underneath provides some clarification. It also lacked catchiness: I think the bold typeface was what directed my eye to it rather than its substance. If it were online, a more complete sentence structure like "University officials consider unpaid days off for staff" might have worked better.
I liked "Professor ratings aid students in class selection." One thing that makes it a good headline for the Web is searchability--if I were looking for stories about class selection on a search engine, this would be likely to come up with the search term "professor rating." The Daily did not provide a summary paragraph, but it didn't need one--the headline gave the reader a good enough idea of the article's subject matter. It's concise enough for print, but complete enough for the less-space-constricted Web.
"Prominent agronomy professor to retire at age 70"? Yawn. I didn't bother to read that story when I picked up the paper this morning. Having read it now, I found that since it's not hard news, I'd appreciate a more featurized headline. Not cheesy, just eye-catching. The story, too, could use a breath of life. It has about as much of the human aspect as its headline--I don't feel like I know anything about the man except his accolades. Maybe he wasn't a very magnetic personality, but the story could have benefitted from a more human focal point--which may have yielded a better headline.
Disinterest in sports--not headline quality--is to blame for my skeptical glace at "NCAA study spurs rule changes to protect athletes from injuries." I found it to be a good, clear picture of what appeared in the story. Like the professor ratings story, the headline was complete enough that the article didn't need a summary paragraph under its headline. It would also transfer nicely to the Web because the headline is highly searchable. If I entered the terms "NCAA" or "athlete injuries" it would be likely to appear on a search engine.
While the article "Lawmakers, safety organizations discuss distracted driving" best captures my interest, it could benefit from the addition of the word "and" in place of the comma to make it read better on the Web--a minor scruple. Otherwise, the headline tells the reader what they will be reading about quite effectively. The summary paragraph adds some specifics. I give it an A.
Given the fact that most of the Daily's headlines were Web-friendly, I wonder if they were written with the intention of winding up online. If this is the case, the question might be raised as to whether the headline lingo used is more closely-related to online journalism or a hybrid of print and online to make it translate more easily to either medium.
The March 4 story in the Daily about distracted driving can be summarized by "Minnesota legislators are trying to cut down on distracted driving caused by technology"--that's 70 characters. A friend commented that this seemed like it was about time they put some legislation into making the roads safer. When further probed about the completeness of the summary, she said it was important to specifically include "Minnesota" to clarify the local aspect, because the federal government has been talking about similar actions for vehicles that the federal government has the jurisdiction to regulate.