My favorite headlines

These are some of my favorite headlines.  Many of them won internal newsroom awards and reader compliments.  Each was a fun challenge — to fit a pre-fixed space created by the page designer, explain the story accurately and draw the reader’s eye with clever language and wordplays — on deadline, of course.

Fact-checking column, PolitiFact

When writing headlines for the fact-checking column, PolitiFact, it was necessary to announce whether or not the statement in question is true, false or somewhere in-between — yet I tried to be clever and eye-catching, to draw readers to the detailed explanations in the column.

Business headlines

Business headlines run the risk of being dry, so word play and eye-catching verbs work well.

Major national news

The challenge in writing headlines for major national news stories is to draw the reader’s attention to the latest news, without copying the same headlines seen online or in other major newspapers.  These headlines should strive to capture the essence of what is happening and what it means, as the story unfolds from day to day.  Often, a large, banner headline will allow room for just a few, carefully chosen words, augmented by an explanatory deck headline.

Stand-alone photos

Headlines that sum up a stand-alone photo are in a special category.  The whole idea is to be catchy, concise and perhaps a bit offbeat — just like these extraordinary photos.

Sports stories

Sometimes, sports stories make front page news, for example, when the Milwaukee Brewers made the MLB playoffs for the first time in decades.  I was honored to write the headlines for Page 1A about the playoffs for three days in a row.  When sports-related stories are considered general news, headlines must be eye-catching, with enough pizzazz to please sports fans, and enough explanation for readers who don’t follow sports closely to understand what’s happening.  The front-page headlines should complement, but not repeat the headlines on accompanying stories in the sports section.

Headlines for a newspaper opinion or investigative column

Writing headlines for a newspaper opinion or investigative column carries a special responsibility because columnists draw strong reader following and feedback, good and bad.  Whether the columnist is being humorous, serious or shedding light on questionable actions, he or she wants a headline that accurately sums up the column, yet draws attention.   A little cleverness and play on words sometimes works well.

Feature story headlines

With feature story headlines, it’s all in the packaging.  There are often several headlines to write, which all work together, along with informative photo captions, to enhance the appeal of an already compelling feature story.  This is where a headline writer can have fun.