Memorable headlines: Dewey defeats Truman

dewey-defeats-truman1Copy editors at newspapers spend a great deal of time and energy on writing headlines. And for good reason β€” 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.


One Comment

  1. Cool series!

    Pat Maloney was also the guy most responsible for the hed/lede that nearly got the Trib indicted under the Espionage Act in 1942. Sort of a Bill Buckner of journalism.

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