Hammer heads for hacks

garbage canWriting a snappy, provocative headline — one that accurately reflects the gist and tone of a story — isn’t easy. Not if it requires being original. In a pinch, time-pressed editors and designers turn to puns, movie titles and song lyrics. Those can work if there’s a broad-enough cultural reference, even if they’re derivative and lazy.  Then there’s the old reliable method: recycle. That explains why these headlines, among others, get used so often.

Grape expectations (regarding anything to do with wine) Example: “Grape Expectations: Until recently, few would have predicted that a winery would have the potential to bring tourists and their spending money to historically dry Edmonson County, let alone attempted to bring about that vision.” (Bowling Green, Ky., Daily News, June 29, 2011)

Dead dogs walking (regarding anything to do with stray animals, pet rescue) Examples: “Dead dog walking: Michigan Rottweiler survives botched euthanasia attempt.” (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 14, 2010) Others:  Orlando Weekly 1999; Riverfront Times (St. Louis) 1999; Illinois Times (Springfield) 2014 

The long goodbye (regarding anything or anybody on its or his way out, e.g. Nelson Mandela) Example: “The long goodbye: Heckert Shoe Co., founded in 1888, prepared to leave downtown Appleton in November.” (The Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wis., Oct. 19, 2010)

Boiling point  (regarding anything involving angry people, controversy) Example: “Boiling Point: Tensions high, many fear economic impact of Stage 4. Outdoor watering — it’s not a vanity or pride issue that has several residents concerned about the impact of Stage 4 water restrictions based on the Drought Contingency Plan. It’s economical.” (Brownwood, Texas, June 21, 2013)

A tale of two cities (regarding comparisons of, um, two cities) Example: “A tale of two cities: Brockton officials hope to use Lowell’s success as blueprint for the future.  They each have a baseball stadium. They each have a mill history. Now Brockton wants more of what Lowell has –which is economic success and a foundation that will help it grow for decades. (The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass., March 9, 2014)

Capitol offense (regarding anything dysfunctional with state or federal government) Example: “Capitol offense: Getting sick of clickin’ O’Care Web sites fail. (New York Post, Oct. 2, 2013)

A place in history (regarding anybody or anything that somebody thinks is historically significant) Example:  “A place in history: A United Methodist Church earns spot on Register of Historic Places.” (Hartford, Conn., Courant, Dec. 7, 2010)

Coming to America (regarding immigration, imports — anything coming to the U.S.) Example: “Coming to America.  Every year as students settle back into the daily grind of classes, homework and midterm exams, a handful of students across the region are adjusting to something much bigger: life in the United States.” (The Leaf-Chronicle, Clarksville, Tenn., May 2, 2014)

Some others that are tired and need to be retired: Tipping point; Game changer; Success story; Survivor’s story; Making a difference; Going green; New hope in the fight [against insert disease]; High hopes; Feeling the heat; Pain at the pump; Rising star; Up in smoke; Room at the topDollars and cents; Flying high; Facing the music; Winning hand or Losing hand. 

Full disclosure: I’ve used most of these during my career. Some more than once. I’m sorry. (Originally published May 30, 2014)