Saturday, 9 October 2010

Headlines lost on the young at heart

This headline from the Sun about the X-Factor - Lloyd, Cole and the Commotion - gave me a chuckle. But it did strike me that anyone under 35, the people the coverage is mainly aimed at, just wouldn't get it. I was with the Daily Mail trainee subs this week - and it certainly drew blank looks all round. Lloyd Cole and the Commotion (a 1980s pop band) weren't even a household name in their brief heyday. Lawrence Donegan, the band's bass player, had a similar experience with his Guardian colleagues - who had no idea what the headline meant - and clearly weren't aware that they were working alongside a famous musical icon. Lawrence, who also played bass in the Bluebells (you must remember Young at Heart), switched careers from pop star to journalist, starting with a brief spell at The Northern Echo during my tenure. Writing headlines that can be understood by all readers is something we deal with on our subbing courses ... and I have plenty of examples that are just too cryptic. Remember the Clitheroe Kid? Probably not. He certainly wasn't famous enough for many people to get the pun in this Mirror headline from 2007. At least it still makes sense, even if you don't get the reference to the radio show from more than 40 years ago. But I have trainees who are regularly baffled by old song titles, Cockney rhyming slang and archaic phrases. The headline below from the Sun, quite brilliant though it is, wasn't understood by any of the paper's last intake of 20-somethings. "But our parents didn't do nursery rhymes with us," they said. Good point.  
Footnote: Lawrence Donegan is the Guardian's golf correspondent and has written four books including an enjoyable insight into Irish newspapers, No News at Throat Lake. It's not strictly a novel but I have added it to our ever-growing list of books based on newspapers anyway. Laugh out loud stuff.

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