Making Headlines

I check up on the world hourly or so, via Google News. It’s the first page that comes up when I open my web browser, and I’ve set it to show headlines for the World, US, Business, Sci/Tech, Health, India, and Italia (I’ve just eliminated Entertainment as a category because I’m sick of Madonna, Paris, Pitt, et al). I don’t have any choice about the Top and Recommended Stories that Google picks for me, which is annoying because the stories they choose are often of little interest to me.

I don’t actually read many of these news stories. I can get an overview just scanning the headlines and the line or two of story given on the Google page, and I prefer to get my in-depth news from the Economist and the New York Times. Still, I’m absorbing tons of information every day, and there’s one journalistic phenomenon – no, two – that I would like to complain about.

1. Stating the Obvious: A recent headline read “N. Korea denounces sanctions”. Well, duh. Given what we know of that evil little man who’s running the place, what else would their reaction be? This is NOT news. It would only be news if the reaction had been anything different.

Similarly, world leaders “condemning” the latest violence of whomever against whomever – it’s all just hot air until and unless they actually do something about it. So don’t waste my time on telling me that they all expressed outrage and horror. In fact, I’d just as soon the leaders didn’t waste everybody’s time convening press conferences to express their feelings – we can take those as given, stop wasting taxpayers’ money on telling us how sorry you are that the world is a rotten place. Instead, go do your job and try to fix the bits you can!

2. The Clever-Clever Headline: Journalists (and/or their editors) are always thrilled to go for the easy pun, most of them so gaggingly awful that I will spare you any repetitions – you know what I mean. As soon as some news stories begin to hit which involve particular names and places (and are not so awful that a humorous headline would be out of place), we can all predict exactly what some of the headlines will be. It€™s another case of stating the obvious, and there’s nothing more boring than the obvious.

NB: Yes, I try (and often fail) to be clever in my own headlines. But, since my topics are not usually big news stories, at least mine are not so predictable!

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