Memorable headlines: I’M SORRY… SEND ME MONEY

by andybechtel


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 seventh in a series of posts on memorable headlines.


THE PUBLICATION: The Huffington Post

THE STORY: In September 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, caused a commotion when he shouted “you lie!” as President Barack Obama spoke to Congress. The fallout included an apology and a fund-raising effort by Wilson and his Democratic opponent in the 2010 election.

ITS SIGNIFICANCE: This headline is more noteworthy for how it was done than what it said. The Huffington Post put out a call on Twitter, inviting readers to submit ideas for headlines for this story. Anyone on Twitter could offer a suggestion by using the hashtag #headlinehelp.

The winning submission was a hit because it generated about 100,000 clicks, according to HuffPo co-founder Arianna Huffington. She said that the site will continue to try “crowdsourcing” headlines on occasion.

Many readers seemed to like this approach to headline writing. “This is a good idea,” read one comment. “The headlines need improvement. I’d rather have a little snark than an overdramatized eye-grabber anytime.”

At least a few professional editors, however, may prefer “outsourcing” as the name for this practice. “How much are they paying?” asked Patrick LaForge, director of copy desks at The New York Times. Yes, he used Twitter and the hashtag to ask that question, which has apparently gone unanswered.

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