Pitch A Headline

It certainly can’t hurt.

I’ve had people come up to me, after a stories been printed, and asked me why I wrote that headline.

It happens more than you think, too. I have to explain the newspaper editing process to them and let them know that I don’t write the headlines. It’s just the way it is.

Sometimes reporters, at the Chronicle, are asked for clarificaiton and to “check” headlines to make sure the essence of the story is picked up, but that’s it. That all happens in less than 30 seconds. It’s quick and I don’t really think anything of it.

Sometimes I do pitch headlines, to make sure the headline is correct.

It’s not that headlines are wrong, but they can stray the story the wrong way. It’s not done on purpose.

Writing headlines is something that I’ve struggled with since I became a journalism major. When I was an intern at the Journal Inquirer, my editor would ask for a headline with each story.

I’d write my stories and think for a very long time about what the headline could and should be.

My headlines were never chosen and I eventually gave up that summer because I was wasting too much time on thinking up the headlines for my tiny stories. It frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t think up something in less than eight words. It’s funny when I think about it now, but, back then, it was seriously frustrating.

Headlines continued to plague me at CCSU’s The Recorder, where I was a news editor for a semester before I graduated in December 2011. I could write four to five stories a week, but I couldn’t think of a headline to save my life. That, I think, was a turning point for me. I really tried to put in the effort to come up with them, but I always gave up. I really couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. I don’t think it really has a name.

Since I’ve been at the Chronicle, I’ve gotten a bit better at guessing what my editor’s are going to do with headlines. I’m not always accurate, but it’s almost down to a science. They figure out how much space they have and play with words to get the right headline with the space that’s left.

I pitch headlines to challenge myself. Sometimes I win, but, most of the time, the headline kicks my ass.

It can’t hurt to try at headlines. It’s an acquired skill and I know I’m not there yet.

Jonathan

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