Heads you win …

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Bermuda, media

I was rather amused to read the headline in yesterday’s Royal Gazette that “Shooting outbreak causes fear and injury”. Not because of the tragic subject matter, of course, but because it was one of those meaningless headlines that states the obvious – like “Cancer is a bit nasty” or “Women have babies” – and tells you nothing about the story.

When I was working on the Mid-Ocean News in the 1980s we had a “wall of shame” on which we gleefully posted the worst/funniest headlines produced by our Gazette colleagues across the office. And we had plenty to choose from. Compared to the punchy, pun-laden that many of us UK-trained sub-editors took pride in, The Gazette heads were far more tortuous affairs.

My favourite was the one that topped an inquest report and read: “Doctor put patient’s leg injury above chest cavity bleeding”. In 72 point type. Over two decks. Across six columns!

Another was about the end to a rogue owl’s reign of terror among the island’s small animals. “It’s all over for the snowy owl as one shot blows its head off”. You couldn’t make it up.

Mind you many of our heads were lost in translation. I once wrote a headline about a local soccer coach being fired – I think it was “Bascome axed”. A puzzled Bermudian colleague told me he didn’t understand the headline. “It didn’t say what you axed him about,” he said.

Fortunately at the Mid-O we had deputy editor Ivan Clifford who was a master of the art. His finest line adorned a travel piece about hotels in Ireland’s Mourne Mountains: “Top of the Mourne inns.” A classic.

My efforts were rarely as clever but I was proud of one that headed a rather pompous letter from a local actor taking our theatre critic to task for a less than flattering review of his performance in the lead role of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. There was only one headline I could put of course … The Self-Importance of Being Earnest.

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