Headline shortage cripples newsroom

Local layout editor is driven to insanity over loss of headlines.


Gregg Boomster photo

Tragedy struck Warner this last Tuesday when the newsroom for the Exponent experienced the lowest rate of headline production since 1930, which had a total of two headlines that night. The shortage experienced last week was worse with a headline gross of one.

“I had nothing to say! All the articles just spoke for themselves,” senior business major Sam Riegal said.

Headlines are the bolded sentences at the top of every article that are meant to attract readers and inform them of the content of the article. An article cannot be printed without a headline so they become an important part of the newspaper’s production. 

“They [headlines] usually come naturally. But that night they just weren’t coming,” sophomore computer science major Matt Mercer said.

The Exponent has safeguards to protect against headline deficits. The first defense is for the journalists to write a headline for their article. The second defense is for the copy editors to revise or rewrite the headlines that the journalists wrote. The third defense is for the layout editor to modify any available headlines to fit the space allotted on the newspaper’s page. The last line of defense is for anyone in the newsroom not working to gather and brainstorm a new headline. Last Tuesday every safeguard against running out of headlines failed. 

“It [the headline shortage] was a perfect storm. The articles were self-explanatory, any headline was too short or long and the usual replacement words didn’t fit or make sense. It was a nightmare,” freshman political science major Travis Willingham said. 

When the Exponent has trouble devising a headline, there is a library of replacement words that the staff relies to fill space or shorten a phrase.

“My personal favorite is ‘triumph’ for sports articles. ‘Driftless’ is really good for filling up space and ‘UW-‘ is good for shortening a phrase,” senior health and human performance major Tallesin Jaffe said. 

The large amount of effort to find a usable headline can lead to low morale in the newsroom. The entire staff could be pitching ideas for hours but get nowhere.

“Yeah, it gets frustrating. Even today I rattled off some good ones but they [headlines] didn’t stick. There’s not a binary ‘this one’s good’ and ‘this one’s bad’, it depends on the article,” freshman accounting major Marisha Ray said. 

However, much like the fickle headlines, the entire staff working toward a common goal can raise morale. Especially when the ideas being brainstormed are whimsical or referencing an inside joke.

“One of the headlines last month I pitched was an inside joke with my boyfriend [Liam O’Brien]. It was ‘Local trash man dumps gold’ and it was funny because I call him ‘trash man’,” Riegal said.

Making headlines is part of the craft of journalism that some in the newsroom have mixed feelings about.

“Sometimes I hate making them [headlines] and I’d rather leave the space blank! But usually I don’t mind it because the challenge of it can be rewarding,” senior film major Laura Bailey said. 

Regardless of personal feelings, headlines need to be made. If you want to help fight the headline deficit, you can call in to donate headlines at 608-342-1471.