Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banana banana banana

Do you think that maybe -- given that the kicker says "BAY OF PIGS" and all -- we could have figured out what the topic is by the time we get to "Bay of Pigs" in the main hed and the c-deck?

Display type is supposed to complement other bits of display type. One way to do this is to address a different "w" in each bit of display type: If the main hed emphasizes "what," the deck can go for "when" and the cutline for "where." The point isn't just avoiding variation; it's using the eye's natural attraction to variations in size, shape and weight to give the poor coffee-deprived reader as many reasons to enter the story as you can.

Even if you're the Miami Herald, after all, not everyone in your audience sat breathlessly by the radio in 1961 -- or grew up in an exile household. The Elongated Yellow Fruit syndrome isn't a ban on variation; it's a caution against Fowler's "elegant variation," which turns bananas into the elongated yellow fruit and sugar beets into the subterranean sweet treat. Try a when or a who to break up the incessant what-what-what.

Alert readers will also notice that the deck violates a basic rule of hed writing. Here's the lede:

Freshly released CIA documents on the Bay of Pigs invasion provide new details on the confusion, mixed messages and last-minute changes in plans that ultimately doomed the mission.

Heds come from main clauses. The core of this story is "documents provide details." The "major confusion and mixed signals" aren't news. That's why they're hanging around a relative clause after a preposition.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Ed Latham said...

I'll bet this happened because of the rise of search engine optimisation training. We've had it drummed into us that repetition in web headlines and other furniture is the most important thing in catching Google's eye and coming near the top in the list of search results for our chosen SEO term.

When we've complained about having to generate the kind of repetitive ugliness like the furniture above, our SEO exec - a former sub - sighs, and say 'I know. But I'm telling you what works.'

Our system allows us to generate separate print headlines and furniture, so we can keep the repetitiveness confined to the web version of the article. But maybe that's harder to do at the Herald? Or maybe the desk has gone digital-native, and decided that, one day, all headlines will be made this way? I've noticed a bit of what you might call 'digital leakage' into print furniture even at our place.

Google certainly seems to like it: quick search for 'Bay of Pigs' has that article - with, yes, identical furniture - coming up second on Google News. O tempora, etc

3:47 AM, August 19, 2011  
Blogger fev said...

"Digital leakage" at least sounds courteous -- compared with "print is an infection that must be isolated," which I heard earlier this year.

We'll probably start wrestling with the SEO monster this year. Clearly another sign that I'm no longer the youngest editing teacher in the building.

8:01 PM, August 23, 2011  

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