Every headline tells a story

I wrote a lot of headlines during my years in the newspaper business. So it’s not all that unusual that I pay more attention to them than does the average reader. In some ways, to me, the headline is more important than the story – if it’s a good one, it’ll not only lure me to read the story beneath it, it very well may entertain me, intrigue me, even more than it informs me.

A really good newspaper headline is brevity at its best – saying more than enough in as few words as possible. Heck, many times telling the story better than the story. And sometimes, unintentionally, telling an even better story than the story beneath it.

The other day I was surfing the Internet, looking for off-beat news items for blog material. I have a few favorite sites that yield a lot of great weird nuggets of inspiration. But on this day, going from one item to the next, the stories just weren’t living up to their headlines. I was getting frustrated. I wasn’t getting what I needed.

And then I realized I was working far too hard. If the headlines are better than the stories, well dammit, then just go with the headlines.

ROSACEA IS CAUSED BY DEAD MITES POOPING ON YOUR FACE

MTV MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, CANCELS “JERSEY SHORE”

STARVING YOURSELF MAY NOT MAKE YOU LIVE LONGER AFTER ALL

MAN ROBBED AT BUS STOP IS GIVEN BUS FARE BY HIS ROBBERS

THIS CHUNK OF WHALE PUKE IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR CAR

IDIOT NEARLY DIES TRYING TO MAIL HIMSELF IN A BOX TO HIS GIRLFRIEND

TEACHER ACCUSED OF HELPING “DUMB AS HELL” KIDS CHEAT

MAN NAMES STORE “HITLER,” CLAIMS HE DIDN’T KNOW WHO HITLER WAS

VICIOUS SPAT ENDS WITH WOMAN CASTRATING MAN WITH HER BARE HANDS

DROUGHT BRINGS GRIEF TO COW POOP-THROWING COMMUNITY

CHARITY BREAST SQUEEZE PUTS THE FUN BACK INTO FUNDRAISING

Need I say more? I didn’t really think so.

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Solved: A condiment conundrum

When I was working in the newspaper business, I got to know all kinds of people. From all walks of life, every social strata of the human, and not-so-human, condition. Odd ones, bombastic ones, eyes-a-poppin’-in-their-heads ones. Some heard voices, other seemingly talked in tongues at times, there were just a lot of downright creepy people.

And that was just in the newsroom.

Probably one of the more interesting ones was my boss, head of the paper’s layout desk. It was our job to take all of the stories, photos and other tidbits that make up a daily newspaper – all the news that was fit to print – and somehow get it all to fit into it, in less time than was physically, or mentally, possible.

Every day, three times a day. Then, out the door and come back for more on the next one.

My boss is one of the most intelligent men I’ve known. Attended and graduated from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And actually belonged there. He could spew about quantum physics with one gesturing hand, while laying out a page on his computer screen with the other one. And never miss a beat, a period or a semi-colon.

Oh yeah, he did have one little problem. Just an itsy-bitsy one, really. He wasn’t exactly what you’d call a shining example of “grace under fire” when the pressure got ramped up, as it always did. The number of minutes before a deadline seemed to disappear far faster than the number of pages still waiting to be done.

He was fine, he was workable. Unless someone came up to him, at the wrong moment.

Once I looked up just a nano-second before a brand-new reporter arrived at his desk. Too late to help him, too little time to stop the apocalypse.

“Excuse me …”

The explosion was just about equal to that of the hydrogen bomb, sans the mushroom cloud.

“WHAT THE F*&&&*^###$%^^*&((*^^ A%^&&^%% F%&^^%&% DO YOU WANT???!?!!?”

Enter one tirade, exit one reporter. Swan-dive, right under my desk.

“Hey Flash, it’s OK, you can come out now,” I said as I was writing my 150th variation of “Man Bites Dog” for the front page. “I think he ran off into the pressroom. What was it you needed?”

“I was just going to ask him to point me to the men’s room,” the cub mumbled as he dusted himself off and left the area muy pronto. “But it’s OK, I don’t need it now.”

“Hey, get back here and wipe that up!”

Other than that little flaw, his only failing in life, that I could see, was working for a newspaper. How the hell a truly-talented and gifted MIT guy ended up toiling in the midst of all this mentally-numbing mayhem was beyond me.

He should have been working on discovering a cure for it.

I think this dark thought of mine was pierced by a small ray of light the other day when I read that a team of MIT engineers had come up with the answer to one of society’s most perplexing and confounding problems.

Anticipation … anticipay-yay-tion.

The cure for cancer?

The secret formula to turn straw into biodegradable and abundant fossil fuel?

Concocting the answers to Man’s two greatest, yet never-yet-answered questions:

What is the meaning of life? and,

How does Donald Trump keep that combed-forward patch of lower back hair glued to the top of his head?

Nope. None of the above.

This group of intrepid, inquistive and inventive MIT intelligensia has created a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour out like lava-on-steroids, all of it out. They say this may save 1 MILLION TONS of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other squirty condiments from being thrown out each year. Oh, and bring an end to our incessant thumping, our valient but vain attempt to free just one more little tomatoey bit that until now, alas, has forever stayed stuck to the bottle’s bottom.

Think of all that ketchup. Think of all the bottle-thumping.

That MIT, it sure is a plenty interesting and smart place. And there’s a whole passel of great minds in there, no doubt about it.

But it’s also home to some really dumb career counselors.