Usually the Dictionary.com word of the day is not consulted prior to writing for this space. Today is no different. The topic was determined prior to accessing today’s word on the Dictionary.com app on my iPhone 5, but the word and the topic go hand-in-hand. The topic is about writing headlines, specifically in newspapers where space is limited and creativity is required. Unfortunately, with the rush to produce newspapers earlier each day, the art of headline writing is being lost.
In Thursday’s edition of The News & Observer, the paper of record in my household, the front page story about an audit of the state Department of Health and Human Services, led by Secretary Aldona Wos, did not go unnoticed by the editorial writers who for the umpteenth time told us the wealthy Republican Wos needs to go. The editorial, which rehashes today’s lead story as well as other missteps during Wos’ term of less than three years, is headlined DHHS woes. A little creativity would have produced Wos’ DHHS woes, somewhat of a tongue twister but more imaginative.
Headlines are supposed to grab your attention to read the article, but also to quickly tell a story. For instance, in the mid-1970s, when the outfield fence at NC State’s Doak Field was only about 48 inches tall, if that, and a simple picket construction with openings between slats, a Wolfpack baseball player hit a ball that appeared to clear the fence, but in reality. Or did it land on the warning track and bounce over? The umpire thought the former and called it a home run. The story in the Technician, the student newspaper, highlighted the call and the headline was: 2B or not 2B? That’s the question.
Story titles should be pithy of word, but in the Technician April 1, 1975 edition the lead story was about the selection of United States Senator Jesse Helms to replace retiring Chancellor John Caldwell to lead the campus. The story said it was a sudden selection and the headline read: Helms cops top State post in flash pick.
In a small business newspaper in Raleigh there was a story in 1976 about Lillian Woo, a North Carolina Democratic politician running for State Auditor. She was at an annual Party fundraiser in the northeastern part of the state. The article discussed her efforts to raise the money needed to run for office and was headlined Pitching and Wooing at the Nor’easter. For the unknowing, that headline was taken directly from the title of the book Pitching and Wooing published in 1973 and written by major league baseball player Bo Belinksy. He pitched and wooed as did Lillian Woo but in a completely different context.
Dictionary.com word of the day
cynosure (noun) [sahy-nuh-shoo r, sin-uh-shoo r] something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.