Session 5: Inside Readers’ Heads

Of all the sessions offered at this year’s conference, I didn’t expect to attend one solely based around headline writing. Headline writing can be… well, a little boring.

“Inside Readers’ Heads” did provide some good insight, though. During this presentation, a number of panelists looked at recent headlines from major publications and decided whether or not they would read the article based only on its headline. It was very interesting to see the headlines on their own. The Pendulum has sometimes struggled with headline writing, because it is often the last thing we add to the pages when we are designing them on production night. We put more emphasis on the stories and photos as a whole, rather than the standalone headline.

But in looking at some of these headlines on their own, it was clear that not a lot of time was invested in writing them. Many of them were too vague or too detailed or too confusing. It became very apparent to me that we need to dedicate more time to careful headline writing, rather than just throwing together a few words at the end of the night.

There was one major detractor to this session: I found the session leader, Teresa Schmedding of the Daily Herald Media Group, to be extraordinarily rude. This conference is supposed to be a learning experience for all student journalists, but whenever a question was posed that didn’t apply just to headline writing, Schmedding would write it off and stifle the opinions of the audience. After one particularly tough question from an audience member, she quipped, “I mean, how much time do we even have?” For a session leader, I thought Schmedding could have done a much better job of facilitating discussion and not shooting down detailed questions.

Regardless, though, this session provided a good deal of insight that I’ll be sure to keep in mind at future Pendulum production nights. Headlines matter way more than we give them credit for, and I certainly recognize that now.

–Rebecca Iannucci

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