Sunday, September 5, 2010

Making Headlines Count

Headlines are curious beasts.

Originally, they were designed to impart information about stories in short bites so we, the readers, could decide whether or not to chew on the rest of the story for awhile or turn to the sports page. But over the years they've evolved into crafty used-car salesmen, willing to promise you anything in exchange for a bit of your precious reading time.

Let me show you how a headline works -- in super high-definition slow motion:

First, you open up your daily newspaper (or internet), scan the top of the paper (screen) to make sure you have a recent edition (not last Tuesday's), and then look at the main headline. Your eyes scan the words, you read what is written (unless you can't read, then you just look at the photographs), then your brain yells out either, "This looks like a winner -- stop and stay for a second" or "This is a load of crap. I think it's time to discontinue my subscription."

If you decide to listen to your brain and stay awhile, then the imaginative part of your brain kicks in and tries to determine what MIGHT be in the story before you actually read it. (The brain. Such a curious chap.) If your brain's "best guess" intrigues you, you stop and read it, and if not, you look for the next headline and the process starts all over again.

For example, here are some true-blue headlines I found on the internet the other day (follow the links if you don't believe me. If they're "broken" by the time you read this, then you'll just have to trust me or think I'm a quack) and exactly what went through my mind as I scanned them:

Indonesia's smoking toddler kicks habit -- Toddlers are supposed to kick balls, not habits. And what were the nuns doing while it happened, just sitting around watching the show? Smoking? You mean as in cigarettes? Well, if a toddler can smoke 40 cigs a day (I read the story) and kick the habit by "redirecting his attention to playing with children his own age," then why is it so tough for adults to do? Just go play with some adult friends (I suggest hopscotch) and be done with the nasty habit!

Beck and Palin plan mysterious joint appearance on 9/11 -- Why all of a sudden is there something "mysterious" about joints? You buy some weed, roll it up, get pulled over by a cop, explain that you have no idea who's joint you're holding, it's certainly not mine, then giggle all the way to the police station where you ask if they have any donuts to share because you're hungry. (I didn't read this story. I have no idea what it's about. Just the names Beck and Palin give me the willies.)

Samsung, Toshiba take on Apple with 'iPad killers' -- Japanese companies deploy ninjas to destroy the world supply of iPads. Follow them on Twitter as they live tweet every slap down and karate chop.

Panel: India must secure elephant reserves -- At first I thought it read animal "preserves" and wondered how in the hell do you get a giant pachyderm into one of those little Mason jars? But then I re-read it and thought, "Well, we have oil reserves in case of emergencies. I guess they keep a few elephants back in case of whatever you would need an elephant for. Stampedes, I guess?

Can home cooking be hazardous to your health? -- When my wife is cooking, most definitely! (Just kidding, dear.)

mTripp app for iPhone uses augmented reality -- Excuse me?

American Airlines pilot cleared of alcohol -- Okay, so pilots are cleared to taxi, cleared to takeoff, cleared to land, but now they're cleared of alcohol? And how do the air traffic controllers say that over the intercom? "Flight 106, you are now cleared of alcohol. Sorry guys!"

And finally:

Cup of tea forces jet to make emergency landing -- I can just imagine a hot steamy cup of Earl Gray jumping out of a passenger's hand and demanding to, "See the pilot right now. Tell him I'm loaded with caffeine and I'll take out this whole $#*&! plane if you dare to put any cream or sugar in me!"

Yep. Headlines. Curious beasts. Don't ya just love 'em?

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