WRITING HEADLINES AND CUTLINES
You have just delivered a story to your associate
editor that is arguably the best you have ever written.
The lead is first-rate, the body copy is flawless and the
ending is textbook
However, the story might vanish into obscurity on
any newspaper page if the accompanying headline does
not entice or inform the reader.
Well-written headlines grab the readers attention,
convey clear, concise thoughts and dress up the
publication. Poorly written headlines can mislead,
confuse and even embarrass the newspaper staff,
command and Navy. Headlines must be free of libelous
statements and must not contain violations of security,
accuracy, policy and propriety.
A reader often decides whether to read a story based
on what the headline says. A headline tempts the reader
to dig into the story. To do this, you, as a headline writer,
must have a sense of what will attract the reader. You
must have abroad vocabulary and enough versatility to
say the same thing several ways to make sure the
headline will fit the space allotted for it on the page.
In the following text, we cover the essentials you
need to become an effective headline writer.
Additionally, we examine the methods used to write
cutlines (the explanatory matter supplementing
photographs) in the final third of this chapter.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the
evolution of the headline.
The first American newspaper headlines were
nothing more than labels. A large capital letter, called an
initial letter, may have been used to set off the first
paragraph of each story. Sometimes the front-page
headlines were one-line labels showing the origin of the
news (England, France, Spain).
By the time of the Revolutionary War, American
newspapers had made some progress in the art of writing
headlines, but not much. A full-page account of the
battle between the Bon Homme Richard and HMS
Serapis, for example, might have been carried under a
10-point, Old English typeface headline which read as
Figure 9-1.Multidecked headline from the New York Sun
following the assassination of President Lincoln.
Epic Sea Battle
An epic sea battle between the Bon Homme Richard
and the HMS Serapis was waged on the high seas. . . .
During the Civil War, American newspapers began
putting more information in their headlines, but their
form was very different from what we are accustomed
to today. Figure 9-1 shows a multidecked headline