Friday, December 14, 2012

Noms noms noms!

Surely I'm not the only reader on the planet who bumbles into the morning's news before the coffee maker has finished its magic work. Yes, I know what a "doc" is -- but until I know whether it's "doc" as in "hero doc" or "Benghazi docs," I have trouble decoding the hed above, in which it means something else altogether.

Even with the extra space provided by the Intarwebs ("Understated doc 'Central Park Five' sets the record straight"), we're no better off. Given that on the same page -- that's the deck (from an unrelated story) -- we're supposed to figure out that "noms" is how the cool kids say "nominations," we can be forgiven for concluding that the local fishwrap really doesn't care if we understand what it's saying, as long as we know it's being said in a really awsum fashion. Nom nom nom!

That's a roundabout way of getting to the reminder that hed writers do more than just explain why today is different from yesterday.* They also remind us that we're reading the publication we thought we were reading when we dropped our quarters into the rack in the first place. You really would have to be a particular grade of slimeball to write a hed like "PATERNITY SHOOT" as shown here, but there would be no question that you're making the Post sound like the Post.

Which is an important goal, but it should never get in the way of telling your coffee-deprived audience what has gone on. Your readers might want to sort your moral failings out for themselves. That's fine, but neither you nor they will ever be able to get started if they -- and you -- don't know what you're saying when you set pen to paper.

* Which is a substantial burden itself, as you will no doubt agree if you either (a) write heds for a living or (b) are charged with teaching the younguns how to carry on the craft.



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