The headline writer today has more to think about than ever: with an increasing proportion of our audience accessing us online and, perhaps even more challenging, on mobile, headlines need to entice the reader in to spend more than a few seconds with us. We are constantly learning more about what works best in these online environments.
Aside from the length of the desired headline – which will often be longer on mobile than we would use in print – what we can still be sure of, however, is that dullness is the enemy: it is clear from this year’s competition entries that our headline writers understand that implicitly.
Confronted with a strong field of entries, the judge’s dilemma this year was choosing on the one hand between the “fun-pun” headlines accompanied by a pertinent illustration – the attention-grabbers, you might say – and on the other those headlines addressing a serious community issue in a clever, if less colourful, manner.
The second group often presents the greater challenge for the headline writer, whereas the former can be something of a gift that cries out for a lively and amusing adornment. I have leaned towards the more challenging type this year, in what is a highly subjective assessment that hopefully serves to illustrate the importance of each.
First – The Border Watch – “Beach Waved Off”
This smart, powerful headline handily captures the essence of the story about Beach Energy departing Penola after failing to find viable sources of gas - to the relief of locals concerned about the possibility of fracking – while playing cleverly on the double meaning of “beach.”
Second - The Bunyip – “Life Support”
A three-year struggle to secure a second ambulance crew for Gawler prompted this arresting and pertinent headline, which demands attention while reminding readers of the life-and-death nature of the service.
Third – The Southern Argus – “Down In The Dumps”
Last year’s winner features again with another edgy entry, at once addressing a serious issue of unsatisfactory sanitation in a public venue in an amusing, if jolting, way.
In the former “fun-pun” category, it was hard to go past the Murray Pioneer’s “Scubaru” picture-story about a drowned Subaru; or the YP Times’ “Something to Crow about” with its terrific accompanying photo of three local members of the premiership AFLW team; or the Mt Barker Courier’sfun report of a local wag’s stunt in “River warning is just a crock.” A fine group of entries!
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