Memorable headlines: Ford to city: Drop dead

ford-dropdeadCopy editors at newspapers spend a great deal of time and energy on writing headlines. And for good reason — headlines attract attention, and some live on decades after they are written. This is the first in a series of posts on memorable headlines.

THE HEADLINE: Ford to city: Drop dead

THE NEWSPAPER: (New York) Daily News

THE STORY: In 1975, President Gerald Ford denied a request from New York City for a bailout. The city was struggling financially at the time and sought federal help.

ITS SIGNIFICANCE: This headline speaks to the power of the paraphrase. Ford didn’t use the words “drop dead,” but the headline writer summarized his position that way. The turn of words may have altered American politics; Ford said the “very unfair” headline cost him the 1976 election. Both Ford and the man who wrote the headline died a few years ago, but the “drop dead” phrasing continues to be a source of conversation and inspiration.

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