Let’s face it: we don’t break news most of the time on printed editions of newspapers. But we can advance the story. The headline is key in doing so. Plus: Going bananas over invisible stories.
It’s no secret: readers don’t come to printed newspapers to find breaking news. News breaks on our digital devices, primarily on our phones. Yet, printed editions continue to exist. Their role is to advance stories. As I have said many times: a good print newspaper editor tells the reader “I know that you know, but I am going to tell you more.”
That process begins with the headline. Best print headlines don’t repeat what we know, but advance the story.
Recently, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged past 22,000, setting a record, it was front page news. But, I found that the headlines in print did not do justice to the story. Let’s take a look to see who did it best.
The Wall Street Journal headline is business as usual, the way this historic event would have been treated in 1980, or 1956. I like the prominent treatment and the graphic, but, I knew already what this headline told me. I feel that the content in the summary of the story, explaining a possible reason for the surge, would have made a better lead headline.
The New York Times headline is much better: it takes the known part of the story into a different angle, arousing curiosity.
Yet, I believe that, on this day, USA Today, had the best headline treatment of all, advancing the story and sending it back to the reader: Because of this surge in the markets, would this be a good time to invest?
Tip: For the print edition of your newspapers, write a headline that stays clear of the obvious and what the audience knows, and, instead, put the story into the perspective of the future, the follow up, the second day headline on day one.
Love those invisible stories whenever they appear. What is an invisible story? It is one where an enterprising reporter/editor has brought to our attention a topic that is not necessarily one that fits into the traditional definition of what makes news: consequence, timeliness, etc.
The Sunday, Aug. 6 New York Times had one such story and I loved reading the trajectory that a banana follows before it gets to the fruit stand of the friendly Pakistani fruit vendor at the corner of my apartment in the Upper East Side. Let’s put it this way, if bananas could gain points for miles traveled, they would be in the platinum or diamond category.
Here is an excerpt from this story in the Times:
When bananas arrive in New York, they begin a second journey, traveling in a large loop around the city. They may be handled by customs officials in Brooklyn, blasted with a ripening gas in New Jersey, haggled over at an enormous produce market in the Bronx and finally taken in an unmarked truck
And here is how the bananas story was covered in the printed edition of the Times.
We need more of these invisible stories, the ones that nobody alerted us to via the usual channels, but that an enterprising editor/reporter sought on his/her own.
Here are two great cover concepts from the Sunday New York Times.
The New York Times Magazine supplement is devoted entirely to the Eclipse that will take place the morning of August 21, when the moon’s shadow will appear over the Pacific Ocean, and, if the weather cooperates, people will see a black hole where the sun should be. Interest is high in this phenomenon, and newspapers and magazine editors everywhere prepare for the rare occasion.
I found this solution from the Times quite interesting. For more about the Times’ treatment of the Eclipse, see Friday’s blog.
Also on the Sunday Times Magazine, a cover story devoted to a story that we see very often: all about losing weight. This one, titled Losing It, grabbed my attention with the illustration on the cover.