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 sixth in a series of posts on memorable headlines.
THE PUBLICATION: The Sun
THE STORY: In 1982, Britain and Argentina fought a war over the Falkland Islands. In the war’s deadliest moment, an Argentine ship, the General Belgrano, was sunk by the British navy, killing more than 300 people.
ITS SIGNIFICANCE: The “GOTCHA” headline is noteworthy for its pro-war point of view. The use of the first person (“our lads”) in the drophead makes it clear that the Sun was not a detached observer of the conflict, but a direct participant.
Roy Greenslade, a former editor at the tabloid paper, wrote in 2002 that the Sun’s leadership had promoted the idea of a British assault to retake the islands after they were seized by Argentina. Greenslade describes how jingoistic headlines played a role in that effort before and during the 74-day war. The newsroom became a war room, a fact epitomized by the “GOTCHA” headline.
Curiously, the Sun changed the headline between editions that day when the death toll became apparent. But “Did 1,200 Argies drown?” is not a significant part of British history. “GOTCHA” is. Indeed, that front page has become a museum piece in and of itself.