The Sun: Harry’s back in Chelsea
A Royal reunion and fortuitous geography gave rise to this cheeky Sun splash from March 2008.
Prince Harry’s romance with Chelsy Davy was back on after the couple had been through a rocky patch.
Harry had just got back from a ten-week tour of duty in Afghanistan and the pair hit the town – in Chelsea.
So he actually was back. And in Chelsea. And, quite clearly, ‘back in’ . . . OK, you get it.
The Sun: Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
It was a headline that made headlines, being appreciated and shared by people with no interest in Scottish football – or in any other kind of football. It works without even knowing what the story is. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know that the ‘Caley’ bit refers to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Their 3-1 victory over Celtic in 2000 is a mere detail. The headline transcends its subject and is just a brilliant bit of wordplay. It is rightly framed in the foyer of the Caledonian Stadium.
Seldom can the headline on a match report of interest to so few have been read by so many.
For the record, back in the 1970s the Liverpool Echo ran this headline: Super Cally Goes Ballistic, QPR Atrocious. The Cally referred to Liverpool player Ian Callaghan.
The Sun: Elton takes David up the aisle
Oo-er! Bit naughty, this one. Another Sun splash that got the PC brigade rolling their eyes and tut-tutting. So it certainly has that going for it.
The story was the happy occasion of singer Sir Elton John’s ‘marriage’ to long-term partner David Furnish in a civil partnership (the first same sex marriage was still more than eight years off).
So an irresistible double entendre, albeit something of a throwback for The Sun which by 2005 had largely moved on from bottom-related gags in any story involving gay people.
But plenty of enlightened folk had a good laugh in spite of themselves.
The Daily Mirror: Why Were There Only Twenty Lifeboats For 2,207 People On Board The Ill-Fated Titanic?
The Daily Mirror’s coverage of the Titanic disaster stood out from its rivals with front pages dominated by pictures, with little text by the standards of the day.
Put a 200 point headline on them and they could be blueprints for a modern tabloid.
However, the headlines were all in small type and very wordy. This one from April 19, 1912, stands out, though. It is a departure from the straight reporting of the facts and introduces a good bit of tabloid editorial attitude by sensing a scandal and demanding answers.
The Titanic was fitted out with 20 lifeboats that could accommodate 1,178 people – barely more than half the number of passengers on board.
It is a great example of when asking a question in a headline can be very powerful. It would be shocking enough to reveal that a state-of-the-art liner had lifeboat places for only half its passengers.
Here, the Mirror get this dreadful fact into the headline, but also takes a lead on the emerging story of who is to blame for the huge number of deaths.
The Mirror kept it sights trained on the lifeboats issue, making reference to it in many of the headlines that followed.
The subsequent inquiry into the tragedy revealed the thinking behind the inadequate emergency arrangements – the ship’s designers wanted fewer lifeboats for aesthetic reasons and to offer passengers better views.
NY Daily News: Ford To City: Drop Dead
Powerful stuff, this. Certainly a very bold bit of headline paraphrasing.
President Gerald Ford had vetoed a bailout for New York City which, in 1975, was facing a financial crisis. His reasoning was that the city authorities needed to get spending under control rather than just take a handout.
He denied ever using the words ‘drop dead’ – that was how the headline writer interpreted the events. Ford said the headline was ‘very unfair’ and a year later went on to complain that it cost him the presidency. So those five words packed quite a punch.
Both Ford and the headline writer are now dead. New York City is still going.
The Sun: From A Consul House To An Estately Home
Here’s a forgotten gem and one that is truly deserving of classic status. It works on so many levels.
The story was of eccentric Ann Naysmith who had lived in a rusting Ford Consul – remember them? – after being evicted from her house in Chiswick when the street was redeveloped back in the 80s.
Ann had been happy with this arrangement for 20 years until, in March 2002, some council spoilsport had the car towed away. But a neighbour stepped in and donated the family’s old Mercedes estate – little knowing they were about to give a Sun headline writer ingredients too good to be true.
It’s brilliant because it’s a funny headline about cars and a funny headline about housing – and cars that ARE housing. And upward mobility, of a sort. It’s the sort of headline you might idly write in your head and then try and imagine a story that could fit it.
There was a further blow for poor old Ann when her new home was swiftly slapped with a parking ticket. And she never wanted to live in estately grandeur anyway – all she wanted was her old Consul house back.
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New York Post: This Is Your Captain Freaking
A simple tweak to a common phrase instantly puts the reader on a plane where the guy at the joystick is having a bit of a moment.
It doesn’t have to use the words ‘plane’ or ‘pilot’ – clever, eh?
In fact, all the facts you really need to know are spelled out in the subdeck: ‘JFK JetBlue pilot goes nuts in midair’.
This is a great example of everyday, colloquial speech informing the headlines. It might not be the most correct way to report stories dealing with mental health issues. But it’s just how the poor passengers of JetBlue Flight 191 would have described events – the pilot freaked out, he went nuts.
They might not have com up with that pun, mind. For that, we have the devil-may-care hacks at The New York Post to thank.
The story was of how Captain Clayton Osbon started ranting about al Qaeda and bombs during a flight from JFK to Las Vegas in March 2012, at one point shouting ‘Say your prayers . . . we’re all going down!’
The Post’s copy goes on to reveal “Osbon’s last FAA medical checkup was in December 2009. His only flight restriction is that he must wear eyeglasses.”
So next time you get on a plane and you see the pilot is wearing specs . . .
The Sun: Werewolf Seized In Southend
Who wouldn’t want to read this story? Even if you don’t believe in werewolves, the subdeck makes it clear the cops got involved so there’s got to be something in it.
This tale of the supernatural took place in July 1987. Mild-mannered carpenter Bill Ramsey, 44, walked into Southend nick and asked officers to lock him up for the night, fearing for his and the public’s safety. This they did, but only after Bill had ‘turned’, attacking and biting coppers with seemingly superhuman strength.
Werewolf: Bill Ramsey ‘transforms’
Bill ended up being heavily sedated and the story attracted the attention of a couple of American demonologists. He was eventually flown to the U.S. where an exorcism was performed. So there you have it – a bona fide werewolf. In Southend.
Once you accept that the story is about a werewolf, the headline is dead straight. It also uses that device much loved by The Sun and other papers of highlighting mundane geography for comic value. After all, if it turned out that werewolves were real and one had actually been caught by police, it wouldn’t be half as good a story as all of that happening in an Essex seaside town.
The Sun: Bin Bagged
Could a mere two words more perfectly sum up the news that the world’s most wanted man had finally been taken out?
‘Bagged’ is exactly right. The U.S. went and bagged themselves the biggest beast in the jungle. America waged a War on Terror but what they really wanted more than anything was revenge against the architect of the 9/11 atrocity that started it all.
Special Forces tracked Osama Bin Laden to a secret compound in Pakistan and shot him dead during a night-time raid. His body was then hastily disposed of at sea.
But for the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ Yanks, it must have been hard to resist the urge to mount his head on the wall of the Oval Office. Perhaps it was the States being typically reserved and reluctant to appear triumphalist.
‘Bin Bagged’ manages to be a perfectly legitimate headline that tells the story, reflects the relief and emotion of the reader AND gives you a chuckle. And in just two words.
The Sun: Browser Snake
A little back of the book gem here, proving that sometimes it’s worth ploughing on until page 41.
The story was about Keith Macdonald, who had more than his 15 minutes of fame in the tabloids back in 2010. Not only was he a “jobless scrounger” but also “Britain’s biggest love rat”, having sired 13 kids by 12 women. These are matters he omitted to include in his profile on a dating website he used to “hunt for new girlfriends”. The fiend.
Macdonald, whose usual pick-up technique was to target girls at bus stops, displayed commendable initiative in turning to the internet instead. And he gave The Sun the chance for this naughty little one-liner.
Daily Mirror: Everybody Was Kung Fuel Fighting
The pumps ran dry, the roads emptied, cars lay stranded, the economy collapsed and unspeakable violence erupted. OK, so the 2012 fuel crisis didn’t quite play out as the doom-mongers would have had us believe.
The Mirror only managed to get a picture of a copper outside a garage to accompany this splash, rather than any of the “fisticuffs” mentioned in the subdeck. But there was a bit of panic and some bad tempers, so excuse enough for a bit of headline fun.
This rather good offering was in the time-honoured tradition of headlines you can sing. It is based on Carl Douglas’s 1974 single Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting – see what those Mirror wags did there?
And minister Francis Maude’s brainwave of suggesting people stockpile fuel in jerry cans made the whole thing the Tories’ fault, of course.
The Sun: Curious Heir And Curiouser
A literary lot, those Sun headline writers. Here they are indulging their readers’ love of classic quotations, this time from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
The story was Prince Charles’s attendance at the 2010 premiere of Tim Burton’s 3D movie version, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
And in the extremely unlikely event that the headline is a bit too booksy for the punters, the copy helpfully explains: ‘Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, is famous for her line “Curiouser and curiouser!” in the adventures.’
Nice headline, though, even if a bit highbrow. Whoever wrote it must have been grinning like a . . . ok, sorry.
The Sun: Is THIS The Most Dangerous Man In Britain?
It’s a screaming headline that asks a question and yet manages to be hectoring at the same time. There’s something a bit Daily Mail about it, really.
But it’s certainly powerful. It’s one of those splashes that is about more than just the story. In fact, it’s not a story at all. It’s much more important than that – it’s a Page One editorial, and therefore a matter of far higher political significance.
The Sun had backed Tony Blair at the 1997 election. A year later and he gets this treatment.
Perhaps he had secretly promised to ditch support for the European single currency in a moment of weakness and then reneged on the deal. Or maybe the paper had merely chosen to overlook his europhile tendencies during the election.
Anyway, a year after telling its readers to get him into Number 10, The Sun was now revealing that they had handed power to a man bent on ruining the country.
Funny that the ‘THIS’ is capped – like there had been loads of other likely suspects, but this time The Sun really did have its man. Probably had more to do with filling that top line out.
And that typeface. Sun subs to this day still lament the passing of ECG – a single column dream font.
This splash harks back to the Tories’ famous ‘New Labour, New Danger’ ad – with a demon-eyed Blair – in the run-up to the ’97 election. A classic slap round the chops for a PM who isn’t playing ball.
The Sun: Once A Knight Fred
A bit of subtle genius here. Well, reasonably subtle. For The Sun, anyway. A perfectly factual headline, couched in nudge-nudge innuendo.
Former RBS chief Fred “The Shred” Goodwin was the bogeyman of the banking crisis. The high-living axeman had been knighted for “services to banking” back when the good times were rolling in 2004.
Four years later, and this banking titan was still at the helm and going at full steam when RBS crashed spectacularly onto the rocks, prompting a £45million taxpayer-funded bailout.
Such catastrophic mismanagement, it turned out, constituted “bringing the honours system into disrepute” and put him in the company of Mussolini and Mugabe in having his title revoked, as The Sun gleefully points out in its splash subdeck.
But it was a double win for The Sun, which had laid a large chunk of blame for economic Armageddon at his feet. The paper had also won a court battle to overturn an injunction banning it from reporting that the married 53-year-old fatcat had been enjoying a fling with a senior colleague.
So “Once A Knight Fred’ encapsulates his shame – both banking and bonking – into a neat four words.
Daily Express: All This And Everest Too
You’re cleared the front page for the day of the Coronation (well almost – maybe Devon Cyder were paying a Queen’s ransom!) You’ve even secured your scoop – an image of the new Queen’s dress (so good that editor Arthur Christiansen breaks one of his own rules and uses the word EXCLUSIVE and adds an exclamation mark).
Then the news comes through that a Briton – Edmund Hillary – is the first man to conquer Everest. Now there’s a dilemma. What do you splash on? The solution? A split front page. Sounds simple. But it isn’t. You need a headline that ties them together. And the Express did just that.
ALL THIS – AND EVEREST TOO! It’s even a great looking page – impact and intelligence. Classic Christianen