Dissociated Press presents:
The Fording Report
A Special Report by Herman Fording
In my long and illustrious career I have fabricated countless headlines; all of them brilliant, many of them true. Except for one in 1992 about the Trans-Icelandic Iguana Guano gurney race, but I try not to think about that one
Yes, the headline is the single most important part of any story, assuming of course, you wish it to be read. A bad story is not good, but a bad headline is evil.
Take for instance this story, freshly ripped from the annals of internet journalism:
By Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press Writer.
Chimpanzees may have been using stone “hammers” as long as 4,300 years ago. An international research team, led by archaeologist Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary, Canada, said Monday it had uncovered the hammers, dated to that time, in the West African country Ivory Coast. It would be the earliest known use of tools by chimpanzees.
The hammers were used to crack nuts, a behavior still seen in chimps in that area, the researchers said in a paper in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The finding may indicate that a “chimpanzee stone age” began in ancient times, the researchers say.
I chose this particular story for its extreme badness.
I mean, sure itâ€™s factual and accurate, containing real scientific discoveries and everything, but there is no mention anywhere of politics, Britney Spears, or Hurricane Katrina. How can you call that news? Even members of the Society of Boredom Thriving Anthropologists would be snoring away after the third sentence, in danger of possible electrocution from drooling into their keyboards. This story should come with a disclaimer stating: â€œExtreme Bore-o-hazard. Do not read this story while operating heavy machinery, washing machinery, or even on the toilet. You will lose consciousness, and possibly die.â€
Of course the easiest thing to do would be to rewrite the story itself, giving it some snap and a little flair. -Like this:
Saskatoon – Today Britney Spears testified before congress in a non-binding video deposition from her rehab facility in the Scottish Highlands. Pointing to security breaches in historical events found in the wake of Katrina, she briefed legislators on her latest developments in the field of primate anthropology. It was a short session.
However, since most journalistic organizations are more interested in â€œaccuracyâ€ than flair, we will have to limit ourselves to merely re-crafting the headline.
First we take the original headline, still dripping from its long emersion in monotony:
â€œDid Ancient Chimps Use Hammmmmmmâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€
Sorry, I drifted off there for a minute.
Then we throw it away and create a bold new headline, composed entirely of real words taken from the actual story:
â€œArcheologists Crack as Ancient Chimps Hammer Ivory Coastâ€
See how easy that was? Quality journalism doesnâ€™t have to be difficult.
So there you have it, even though the story itself is still in danger of violating the Geneva Convention due to inhumane levels of boredom, we might still snare some unsuspecting readers, thanks to our newly improved headline.
Thatâ€™s all I have for now. Come back next time and Iâ€™ll show you how to transform complete strangers into â€œhighly respected sourcesâ€ and then bend those sources to your newsbreaking will.