A Call for Rejected Headlines

Kathrin Ziegler | Digital Vision

Photo Credit: Getty Images | Kathrin Ziegler, Digital Vision

By: Linley Sanders

OK, journalists, time to confess. We’ve all written horrible headlines. Those cringe-worthy ones that are filled with the corniest puns or a string of nonsensical alliterations. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit I’ve had more than a few duds. And as soon as I realize how bad they are, I’m zapped of my productivity. I start Google searching alternative careers, convinced that I’m a horrible journalist because I simple can’t write headlines. As it turns out, I’m not alone in this struggle.

A new Tumblr blog, called Heds Will Roll, compiles rejected headlines as they’re submitted by editors. The concept, similar to Overheard in the Newsroom, is fairly brilliant. Created by Washington City Paper’s managing editor Jonathan Fischer, the blog creates a community and camaraderie over amusing journalistic fails—which most of us will face at some point in our careers.

Personally, I stumbled upon Heds Will Roll while brainstorming headlines for the upcoming issue of DrakeMag. It made me smile, much like Overheard in the Newsroom, because I realized that everyone (yes, everyone), experiences ridiculous journalistic moments—Especially in our fast-paced line of work.

Below are a few of my favorites. Pursue, and even submit your own here. My moral of the story: Don’t take yourself or your job too seriously. At the end of the day, heds will always roll.

Heds Will Roll

Heds Will RollScreenshot 2014-03-26 11.35.54

What do you think? Do journalists take themselves too seriously sometimes? Is it OK to laugh at or publicize journalistic errors? Let me know your thoughts (and your favorite ‘heds’) in the comments below.

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6 responses to “A Call for Rejected Headlines

  1. Hannah Bruneman

    Literally LOLing right now. This is really good, Linley! I agree that there are some cringeworthy headlines out there, and several have been written by me. Some are so bad that I wonder if the editor just used them intentionally to gain attractions to the article. And that shock factor brings up a whole ethical issue with headlines. So I guess another question is, is using these misleading, but attention grabbing headlines accepted journalism? And if so, where is the line drawn?

  2. I am so guilty of coming up with what I thought at the time was a good idea for a headline, only to come back later to have that “What was I thinking?!” moment (Example: See my recent Phelps piece). While some are really funny and can grab your attention at a glance, they do need to relate to the article in some way and be appropriate for the article’s subject matter. You would not use a comical headline for a serious subject and vice versa. I guess you can sum this up as a learning experience for all of us, as we progress through our journalism careers, but at least most of us are learning early.

  3. averygregurich

    I agree that there is a fine line between humor and blatant insensitivity. However, I also think that light-hearted stories should have a fitting light-hearted headline. puns and humor are free game with me in stories such as these, not however, in stories regarding “serious” matters, whatever form those take.

  4. Working for the TD, I have to come up with headlines all the time that fit in a certain space… and then watch my EIC tear them apart and change them. This post is nice! It reminds me that sometimes journalists need to take themselves less seriously and learn to laugh at each other. This is a stressful field of work. A little (or a lot of) laughter probably does us some good!

  5. This post was a great breath of fresh air! We DO take ourselves too seriously. I think we have a great responsibility to live up to, but that doesn’t mean we can never poke fun at ourselves or allow news to be interesting and possibly even humorous. It may even make journalists more approachable and more human to the public.

  6. I think that we get so consumed with what people are going to think about our headlines or whether or not our headline will draw the reader in and we simply freak ourselves out and dwell on the little things. Certainly headlines are an important part of what we do, but clearly we need to lighten up a little and just breathe. We stress ourselves out with the headline writing and that is obvious by everyone’s comments above. I am guilty of always trying to be witty and different when writing headlines. I will re-write and re-write a headline dozens of times to make sure it doesn’t sound corny and even looks right on the page. The process is always over-dramatic and unnecessary really. Thank you for giving me a reason two lighten up myself tonight and giggle a little. Although I know that next time I write a headline I will find myself doing the same thing again, it is nice to reflect on the silliness of it all.

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