On Sunday, May 12, some editorial genius at the Gleaner actually published the following headline: “Expect no privacy in public spaces”.

Duh?  For this to reach my front door, somebody must’ve thought of it; then had the brainless temerity to submit it to a sub-editor who obliviously handed it off to a proof-reader who senselessly sent it on its wondrous way through paginator to printing press to my and your homes.  So, this clueless contrivance represents the collective cunning of a team of daunting dim-wits.  It brought to mind the reason newsprint, the magic with which I grew up, is currently thrashing about in its death throes while digital substitutes like blogs flourish.

In the good old days, having your news arrive in ink was an indescribable thrill.  The crisp feel of fresh newsprint created an aura of anticipation that just can’t reproduce.  These days, newspapers, bravely acting in conflict with commercial self-interest and applying only one half of their collective wit to the task of competing in the twenty-first century, seem intent on self immolation.  Firstly, newspapers’ stubborn refusal to evolve with regard to what’s currently acceptable in public language is an anachronistic attitude best described as suicidal.  We’re still feigning Christian outrage because a Public Official wrote the letter “F”.  Ye Gods, are we in such denial about the existence, nay all-importance, of sex that not even an apt alphabetical acronym is permissible?  God Himself allegedly instructed man to go forth and multiply yet we can’t publish a prescription for Vitamin F?

Now our devout Education Minister, Reverend Ronnie, has apparently opined that reading about homosexuality equates grooming students towards same-sex unions.  Having escaped censure for that excruciating non-sequitur and in full flight of fancy, Rev Ronnie piously proclaimed “Sex education, yes, condoms no!”  I swear to God.  NOBODY can make up such an unintelligent, insensitive, inept, irrelevant, passé oxymoron.  Well, almost nobody.  The policy presumes that, if one pretends that “immorality” doesn’t exist, students will be groomed towards “morality”.  It’s the same sort of appeal to (and for) ignorance that condemns Kingston’s Mayor for acknowledging the utility of free expression. 

But the chief cause of the decline in newspapers’ influence is good old fashioned stupidity.  Headlines like the Gleaner’s May 12 inanity regularly appear in today’s so-called newspapers.  Sometimes, the anxiety to target the lowest common denominator with sensationalism is so intense that all else is ignored.  For example, a British Tabloid’s headline attempt at surprise: “Diana Was Still Alive Hours before She Died!” No! Truly?

In the U.S., efforts at political correctness can exact a toll.  The Lady Jackrabbits (“Lady Jacks” for short), South Dakota State University’s women’s basketball team, during the initial stages of a successful season, was the subject of a local paper’s headline “Lady Jacks off to hot start in Conference” Hot?  I’ll say. But the leading candidates for accidental politically incorrect headline of the year include a report of Nike desperately distancing itself from Tiger headlined “Tiger Woods Plays with own balls, Nike says” and a proud Principal’s endorsement of her school headlined “Girls School still offering ‘something special’ – head”.  Freudian?  Gordian? Hmmm.

In the “Well, blow me down!” category, nominees for the Stupid Headlines Award include one written by Redwood Co. Extension Educator (I swear I did NOT make that up) Wayne Hansen who penned what he intended as an educational piece headlined “Bugs Flying about with wings are Flying Bugs

Other deserving nominees in the category include, from Colorado Springs “Statistics Show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25” (I kid you not);  and “Federal Agents raid Gun Shop, find weapons”.  My personal favourites are “17 remain dead in Morgue Shooting Spree” from The News & Observer; a classic from The Express “Homicide Victims rarely talk to the Police”; and an Associated Press report from Boston headlined “Study Shows Frequent Sex Enhances Pregnancy Chances”. You don’t say?  Where does one sign up to participate in THAT study?

Heading the TMI category is a 1992 report of the Texas Rangers’ attempts to recruit Venezuelan batter, Cris Colón, headlined: “Rangers get whiff of Colon”.  I guess it’s all in the accent.

My all-time favourite headline remains the apocryphal report of a couple’s Egyptian vacation where the husband was attacked by a donkey.  Loving wifey, obviously the duo’s quick thinker, attacked the animal with her umbrella until it left her husband alone.  The next day’s front page headline screamed: “Wife Takes Umbrella and beats Ass off husband”.

Peace and Love


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