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Question headlines -- what's the deal with those?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by MartinonMTV2, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    Predictably, we had about 576 examples of "Did the Cubs throw 1918 World Series?"

    Why? What purpose does that serve?
  2. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    I agree with you, to a point. I think it gets overused, but there are times it works when you have a subhed to explain why you're asking.
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I think there are times when the point of a story revolves around a question many readers will have, i.e. "Will there be an NFL season this fall?"

    In those cases, when there's not a clear answer to a question that's already in the readers' minds, I like it. I don't dislike "Did the Cubs throw the 1918 World Series?" However, my issue stems from the fact that the question ISN'T already in the readers' minds.

    A more direct headline would be "Black Sox star: 1918 Cubs threw World Series, too". Still, you're going to pull in readers with the "Did the Cubs throw the 1918 World Series?" headline, perhaps more effectively than the direct, traditional approach. And that's the goal of every headline, period.
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I write 'em, and they can also be overdone. A place I do some freelance work for on the side basically doesn't allow them.

    Frankly, the overuse of name puns bugs me much, much more.
  5. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    ^ except for the freelance part. If a question is the best head for the story, use it. If it isn't, don't. But always try for an alternative. They're not bad, but they're not ideal.
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    The freelance place philosophy is that at their particular sites, people are coming there for answers -- they don't need more questions. For some of their stories, that makes more sense as an absolute than it does for what we do.
  7. Mystery Meat II

    Mystery Meat II Well-Known Member

    I think the question hed for the Cubs scandal works, because it's introducing a question that people wouldn't have thought to pose before. Headlines should draw in readers, and I think it does its job.

    As for overuse, I think we tend to overthink these things. As journalists/ex-journos/newspaper junkies, we might see a headline or lede used dozens of times (or in some cases, dozens of times from the same event). But unless our readers study multiple sports fronts every day or keep tabs of how often a hed or lede is used, they probably don't especially care. Now if the same paper uses the same lede 10 times in a month, that's one thing. But for the most part, even if you're going to the cliche well (it was a tale of two halves/Christmas came early for XXXX/what a difference a year makes/call it _______, your readers aren't going to notice, and even if they do, I doubt they'll be arsed to complain about it.
  8. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    I don't buy into the argument of "Unless people are tracking these things, then they don't matter." Sorry, they do matter.

    I don't think the holiday cliches are that terrible, though, even though the stuffies like John McIntyre rail against them. Is it better to avoid them? (question hed) Probably. Are they the worst things ever? No. They show up for a short time and then disappear. Question heds, like the Fonz, go on and on.
  9. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    And what about that airline food?
  10. Mystery Meat II

    Mystery Meat II Well-Known Member

    I'm not so much saying they don't matter at all, I'm saying we invest way too much thought and concern in relation to their practical impact. The reader of the Winston-Salem Journal doesn't especially care that the headline for the Super Bowl was identical to the one the Rapid City Journal ran.
  11. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    Not really the same thing, but that's OK. I know the powers of resistance are strong here.
  12. MileHigh

    MileHigh Moderator Staff Member

    I'm with you here. Agree on the name puns being worse. Same with the holiday ones.
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