How to Write Sensational Headlines

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 it’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: “Extreme 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.”

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 “accuracy” 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:

“Did Ancient Chimps Use Hammmmmmm………”

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:

“Archeologists Crack as Ancient Chimps Hammer Ivory Coast”

See how easy that was? Quality journalism doesn’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.

That’s all I have for now. Come back next time and I’ll show you how to transform complete strangers into “highly respected sources” and then bend those sources to your newsbreaking will.

Click here for Herman Fording’s next groundbreaking feature:
Simply Stunning Examples of Sensational Headlines

Or see Fording’s previous journalistic effort click here:
Medical Mayhem


Instigative Journalist Makes News for Over Twenty Years

An interview with Herman Fording, former journalist for the Dissociated Press.
Featured in Superstar Journalist Illustrated.
Reprinted without permission.

Herman Fording is a legend in the journalism community, famous for delivering the goods on some of the most unusual and confusing stories of the last twenty years. When the World Monetary Tracking Computer Network crashed, Fording was there. When Jane Fonda put her hat in the ring for the ‘88 presidential election, Fording was there. When the last known strain of so-called ‘buffalo-pocks’ bacteria disappeared from Los Alamos and the first new outbreak in a century was recorded, Fording was there.

Now Fording is here with me, in a small greasy diner that gives the every appearance of being constructed exclusively for furtive exchanges of spies, reporters, and cholesterol salesmen. In this most appropriate setting we begin our interview.

Star Power

Fording deep undercover with 80’s heavy metal / motocross group, Berms and Perms, days before their now infamous ‘Eat my Dust’ world tour.