Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Seriously Inspired Headline-Writing,
And the Subhead is Pretty Damn Good, Too

Lively Ad Age magazine produces the week's best headline, and the subhead (or the "deck," in magazine parlance) is just as good. Together, they do what every good headline is supposed to do: convert you from a scanner into a reader, pulling you into the story. If more magazines and newspapers did this good a job at selling the article with a great headline and subhead, there would probably be more reading and at least a little less scanning. Of course, some publications do too good a job of this, overselling the article with hype, making an implicit promise on which the article itself can't deliver. That's a serious no-no in our book. We'd love to see your nominees for other great headlines, from wherever you find them. We'll use the best of them in subsequent posts.


At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Forgive me if I've mentioned this here before, John, but my all-time favorite headline appeared in the News-Herald when I was working there many moons ago. Ben McDonald was an up-and-coming pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles at the time, and he was scheduled to make a start against the Indians. The headline -- written by Ed Campbell, a great copy editor who eventually took a newspaper job down in Florida -- on the game preview story was "O's McDonald has some arm, E-I-E-I-O."

I still laugh when I think about it.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That made me giggle, too. Of course humor, used in headlines or in any other kind of writing, is sometimes the toughest thing of all, because it can so easily fall flat for so many readers. But done well--as in the case you cite here--it's awesome. Thanks so much for that addition, Scott. And I did happen to notice with interest the other day on your Linkedin profile that you had served a stint at the News-Herald. Never knew that before.

I'm still feeling a tad guilty--well, okay, just a tad--about a devastating Cleveland Magazine profile I wrote about the paper's longtime editor, Jim Collins, back in the mid-'90s. He subsequently took me to task in his Sunday column, which I got a kick out of. Today, I suppose I'd be a little less harsh, and more understanding of his foibles (like wearing pants with an elephant design the day after elections, to celebrate Republican victories). Like most people, I've mellowed a bit with age, as I recognize my own foibles (and worse).

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Jim Collins is an interesting guy. He leans to the right politically, no doubt. That has been the case with most of the News-Herald's senior editors and publishers for a long time.

Jim is fiercely proud of his Lake County heritage, and he was born in my hometown (and still my place of residence) Wickliffe. Generally speaking, he did a lot of good for the county during his half-century -- yes, half-century -- at the paper.

But while it takes years and years for most of us to turn old and crotchety, I think Jim became that way somewhere in his mid-20's...

At 1:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Well said, Scott. Lake County is a pretty Republican-leaning place (though perhaps a little less than in years past, as it continues to grow and become more suburban and less exurban), so he no doubt fit in with his readers. And as I may or may not have mentioned, we have Wickliffe in common: I spent the first five years of life living there, as well.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Here's a link to a so-so photo of the house in which I grew up, then owned by my maternal grandmother. It's now called Provo House, and is the HQ for the Wickliffe Chamber of Commerce. It's about 150 years old, and was reputedly a stop on the Underground Railroad during the days of slavery. I could never confirm that rumor in later years, but nevertheless think it's probably true. There are so many little nooks and crannies to hide in that old, rambling place, which made living there as a kid that much cooler.


At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

You lived in the Provo House? That is very cool, my friend. Provo House has become a sort of community gathering place in Wickliffe (I believe the city's historical society is based there, too, and when I was a little league coach we held our draft there one year).

For those who don't know, for a time in the early 20th century, Wickliffe was a sort of country get-away for Cleveland's millionaires. Rockefeller had a place there, as did Harry Coulby. In fact, Coulby's ornate, marble-intensive mansion now serves as Wickliffe's city hall.

At 7:08 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good for you, Scott. You know your history, which always wins an A in these parts. I've somehow never managed to tour the Coulby mansion, but always meant to. Very interesting that you held your draft there. It was probably on the very ground upon which I stole my sister's doll, or bopped my brother on the head. I did talk my way into a tour of the place a few years ago, and while some changes have been made since my grandmother owned it, it still looked much the same, and evoked powerful memories.

Anyway, here's hoping we get to actually meet sometime in the new year, Scott. Thanks for reading and especially for commenting.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sorry, my inexact language in that last comment suggests I thought you meant you held your draft in the Coulby place, rather than Provo House. My mistake.


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