The headache of a headline

Posted by Laura

‘Madonna and child’ headlines have been doing the rounds for several days now. Her motives have been questioned, the adoption procedures highlighted as wavered, and the press have been clamouring for a glimpse of the boy who, for this week at least, is the most famous baby on the planet.

So when it came to our report on the furore surrounding Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s custody of David Banda, we wanted to reflect the depth of the debate, a subject which shows no signs of abating just yet, especially if the reports the megastar now wants to adopt a girl from Malawi are to be believed.

The obvious aforementioned ‘Madonna and child’ headline, which several of the papers opted for when the story first broke, was no longer an option. In itself that headline was so textbook in its genius simplicity it almost seems probable the news story was created specifically with the pun in mind. But we weren’t so lucky to have such a luxury land in our laps.

I’m not sure how much I should reveal about the inner workings of the well-oiled MSN Homepage machine, but I’m willing to risk shattering any illusions you may have had about hard-nosed hacks, plastic coffee-cups clenched in fists, throwing around headline ideas in dingy, smoke-filled rooms.

This week has been what all journalists loathe: a slow news time. Here at Homepage Towers – a four-strong desk in a sea of many that populate our office in Soho – we were stumped by the Madonna headline. Each of us assumed pensive poses and set our minds to work. Several skyward glances, momentary lapses in consciousness and motivational trips to the water fridge later, and we were still none the wiser. More than 25 minutes passed before we actually decided on the simple, yet all encompassing, ‘A small boy, a megastar and a huge global debate’. But, truth be told, it could’ve just as easily been, ‘A headline, a collective headache, and 30 minutes of our lives we’ll never get back’.

This block in the flow of creative juices is symptomatic of what is happening, or rather what isn’t happening, in the realms of news at present. One could even argue that if it were a slightly more eventful week, Madonna’s motives would never have attracted such widespread global attention in the first place. Would she really have accumulated so many column inches in such a short space of time? Would we ourselves have even been covering the story in such depth? We think it was the right decision to feature the story today because, as our messageboards showed, inter-country adoption is something that’s got the nation talking. Let us know if you agree or disagree with our decision.

Looking at the papers and television this week, the slow news problem is afflicting us all. Evidence that the malaise has spread is everywhere. The BBC is desperately pursuing a quest to save post offices, which is traditionally the preserve of the local press, and the Times’s front page is proclaiming, Armageddon-style, ‘The end of cod’.

So what are we to do? Resign ourselves to yet more painstaking hours of headline brainstorming or, rather, brainstumbling? No. We’re taking matters into our own hands. If there’s no news to spur our minds back into action, we’re going to ask you to come up with your own headlines around the minor trifles and happenings in your lives today. In fact, if you can make an interesting headline out of even the most insignificant event then all the better.

There’s no real prize to offer at the end, apart from the obvious respect and admiration from us, but we will round up the best efforts and report back with the ones that brought that little spark of humour back to our bloggers’ inbox. Email us your words. However, if it takes four of you longer than 25 minutes to come up with something, you’re best advised to cut your losses.

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12 Responses to The headache of a headline

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