And I approved this headline

With the 2008 campaign finally coming to a close, the Freedom Forum offered a selection of election headlines through the years.

Some of these headlines use the candidate’s first name or nickname — “Ike” and “Lyndon” were apparently headline words at some newspapers. Other headlines include strong adjectives such as “smashing” and “startling.” Together, the collection is a fun trip through history.

Election headlines — like the campaigns themselves — are often dramatic, memorable, and at times, infamous. They typically run across the width of the page in huge type, making them challenging to write. Having the managing editor (and other powers that be) involved in the wording ups the ante.

When I returned to The News & Observer in early 2001 after a three-year hiatus, the newspaper was still smarting from its headline the day after the 2000 election: “Bush wins.” It turned out that the headline, which appeared in some editions, was accurate, but it took several weeks, a bunch of chads and the Supreme Court to make that happen. (More on that election in this column by Dan Barkin of the N&O.)

That’s why, in 2004, the paper was much more careful with the big headline on the Bush-Kerry election. On deadline for the final edition and the vote in Ohio still unclear, we settled on: “Bush leads.” Perhaps it was not the most dramatic headline, but it was accurate at the time the paper went to press.

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