Marianne F. Kaletzky

Times-iest front page headlines of Fall 2007

Headlines are hard. I know, because I write for a newspaper. I remember when I first became an editor and spent the better part of an hour staring at a computer screen, trying to figure out a way to fit the words “genie,” “bottle,” and “students” across five columns before the person next to me suddenly swiveled and yelled, slightly aghast and slightly amused, “Why not just, ‘Students Unbottle Genie on Cabot Stage?’” Of course, it fit perfectly.

Despite the inherent difficulties, the New York Times often adds an unnecessary constraint to the requisite limits imposed by space and information. Their headlines have a certain Timesey-ness; it’s hard to define, but regular readers know it when they see it. To provide a bit of direction, I present the Times-iest front page headlines of Fall 2007:

1) Well: Ate Too Much? Tight Pants May Be the Smallest Worry

This Thanksgiving stunner features a nice correspondence between tiny pants and insignificant concerns, but its best aspect is the way that “Well”—the general heading of other standouts like “Well: Exercise Advice Often Ignores Jiggle Factor”—comes off as an admonishment in this context. “Well,” the headline seems to say to us, like a patronizing teacher, “Ate too much?” Tsk-tsk.

2) Eventful 15-Day Mission for Shuttle Discovery Ends

An “eventful” shuttle mission? No way! But besides the unnecessary adjective, this headline is great because it’s one of those linguistic examples of sentences that can go either way. “Discovery” is the name of the shuttle, but it also seems like we might be sending scientists out on missions to discover shuttles. What fun!

3) From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking

I’m sort of not being sarcastic when I say this one is good. The headline is actually mimetic of the process the water goes through; it also creates some suspenseful reading. “Where is that sewage going to go?” we wonder around the third word. “Whatever it is, it couldn’t be drinking, but added water for…something?”

4) Europe Fears That Meth Foothold Is Expanding

Interesting how footholds can expand. Into what? Stairs?

5) The Secret? It’s Not the Potatoes

Along with the prominence of Times-y punctuation (see #1 for another Times question mark and #3 for the classic Times comma), the great thing about this one is how there’s no suggestion of what the secret is. The secret to ending climate change? Negotiating world peace? Editing copy at the most prestigious journalistic institution in the country and still producing headlines this silly? I still can’t explain any of the three, but I can tell you one thing: it’s not the potatoes.

—Marianne F. Kaletzky ’08 is one of the outgoing Arts Chairs. Her secret? IT’S NOT THE POTATOES!