Copy 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 second in a series of posts on memorable headlines.
THE HEADLINE: Dewey defeats Truman
THE NEWSPAPER: Chicago Tribune
THE STORY: Thomas Dewey was favored to defeat Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential election. Truman, however, pulled off the win to secure re-election. He famously flaunted the paper with the inaccurate headline, a photo that is itself as memorable as the headline.
ITS SIGNIFICANCE: This is probably the most famous headline blunder in U.S. history. It’s a product of early deadlines, among other obstacles and miscues.
It’s still a part of today’s politics, as John McCain showed in October 2008. Whenever a candidate is ahead in the polls and appears to be a shoo-in, someone will bring up this headline as a warning not to call an election over before it’s really over.
The Truman headline is also a common point of reference in popular culture as the object of parodies on “The Simpsons” and in The Onion. It’s even been monetized.