If the objective of a newspaper headline is to make you read the article, it certainly worked with me when I opened the local newspaper just yesterday, but only after the fire brigade had hosed me down to ensure the medicos could treat me for a massive attack of hysterical laughter. Only after the little men in yellow and half the ambo service in the Region, had left and the valium had kicked in, did I start on the article itself.
‘Busy bees wanted for cemetery’ it said, and the appeal was genuine. Sadly, the irony of such a ‘dead end job’ (whoops sorry!) had, by now, escaped me. I’m not saying the clean up of a cemetery is not a first class community venture and I’m not decrying the efforts of the paper to rally the volunteers, but you have to admit that most busy bees would prefer to respond to a message with a little more futuristic possibilities and I saw only the hilariously funny side of the headline.
Words are bloody important in the art of communication. They deliver perception; paint a picture; evoke passions; create desires; scream at us to act and on the right occasion whisper comfort. So why in heavens name do local editors insist on developing headlines that lack tact; are blatantly silly and worse, use unfunny puns to draw attention to their own creative inadequacies. I could just see a few of those kindly community folk reading the paper and thinking, “Over my dead body” (sorry again!). But really folks couldn’t our friend the ‘headline writer’ have been slightly more delicate.
By now I made the mistake of believing my hysteria had calmed and, having read and empathised with the appeal for volunteers, I turned a couple of pages. That represented a huge mistake on my part because while my wife was dialling 000, I relapsed in fits of laughter trying to ensure that I didn’t become the victim of a massive hernia. There it was, two pages later, a full explanation of the same pleas for workers to clean up the cemetery, this time as a news article – and the headline?
‘new life put into cemetery’
It’s no exaggeration to say, “I’m dying to read chapter three.”