Pete's Blog

Writing Headlines

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I do not come off well in this story, but I told it to Steve Simels today so I guess that puts it in the public domain. If you've ever worked on a night desk writing headlines you know it gets a bit Scrabble-like afterwhile. Sometimes you just lose track of what you're writing in the effort to fit the information necessary into the space available. And as a writer I've always hated heds that simply rehash my lede, so that adds an extra layer of difficulty. Anyway, the Trenton Times was throwing me extra work as a copy editor part time while I was trying to catch on as a music writer, around 1989/90, and we had a big story. A local lady, pillar of the AME Zion Church, beloved aunt, grandmother, etc. had died when St. Vincent's Hospital gave her the wrong type blood during a routine operation. Sad story. It happened on, I think, a Thursday. My next shift on the desk was Sunday night. By this time we had already done the news story, the various reaction stories, and the various city hall stories about the upcoming investigation. Sunday was the actual funeral. But by this time other stories had taken over above the fold and I remember the layout for Monday's edition left me an oddly-shaped space for the hed. I tried and tried. It needed to be poetic, yet factual, and everything you really needed to know about the story was already in the lede, which was out of bounds. I really gave it my all, what with it being a beloved local pillar, etc., and as the time went by and the folks downstairs started asking where the page was I started to lose sight of what I was writing about. Remember, this is a person who died from a botched blood transfusion. The headline I so proudly sent down read, "Local Woman's Funeral Taps Deep Vein of Feeling."

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