Friday, April 13th, 2012

Surprise! Copy Editors Are Destroying America's Newspapers (with PUNS)

The National Conference of the American Copy Editors Society has announced its headline contest winners and it is now clear who is destroying the media. Among the many talented, hard-working winners—and you know we love our copy editors!—we find a batch of puns so foul, so egregious, that it's difficult to not feel pranked.

First place for individuals at newspapers with circulation under 80,001 goes to a staffer at the Wichita Eagle, whose winning entries include this… one.

Here's one among the contributions for second place?


For newspapers that were bigger than that but under 160,000, here's a winner from the Providence Journal.

Does it get better in the 160,001 to 240,000 category??? Let's ask the first-place winner, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette!

Huh. To be fair, a couple of them are pretty good.

Fun fact: the second-place winner in this category actually also had good work! Kudos, Matthew Craowley of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Okay and at the big boy papers? Andy Webster at the NY Times took third, and, well, sure! Deserved.

The Los Angeles Times took second…

… and first place as well. WHICH….

If you think these are pretty AW SHUCKS, then you should see the student and online category winners.

23 Comments / Post A Comment

keisertroll (#1,117)

They still don't beat the Ol' Dirty Bastard obituary headline my friend and I came up with in college: ODB DOA AKA BBJ RIP

dado (#102)

@keisertroll My favorite obit headline was "Ike Beats Tina to Death."

keisertroll (#1,117)

@dado That was awesome, though I also liked the Philadelphia Daily News' take on Evel Knievel's death: "What Took Him So Long?"

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@keisertroll When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I would cram as many puns into an article as possible with the understanding that most would be removed by my editors. Imagine my surprise/delight when *every single pun* in my report on an amendment to the Florida state constitution mandating better treatment for pregnant pigs made it through.

Mr. B (#10,093)

@stuffisthings A Pregnant Pause for Pregnant Porkers?

pepper (#676)

@keisertroll You mean, made it trough.

Moff (#28)

I had a front-pager once about a baby owl with a broken leg. Huge photo of this itty-bitty white bird with enormous cute eyes, and the headline: Ow! That hoots!

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@Moff I'm sure I've posted it before, but my favorite pun headline of all time was from the New York Post. It was a story about the NYPD getting Segways, illustrated with a photo of a cop of a Segway looking ridiculous, and the headline was "Stop, or We'll Scoot!"

Say what you will about Murdoch, he's done wonders for the journalistic pun industry.

Mr. B (#10,093)

I'll never forget the 2004 New Jersey Press Association awards, where the Morris County Daily Record won the headline prize for "McGreevey's Out," which, well.

Smitros (#5,315)

I am amazed and grateful that there are any copy editors left.

@Smitros – Apparently not at The Awl: whose winning entries including this… one

(I kid because I love, and because the copy editing 'round these parts is generally quite good.)

jfruh (#713)

At my college newspaper, I had to try to cram a headline about some fertility research into a one-deck newsbrief hed and finally just gave up and used "Scientists find link between sex, pregnancy." It made some major magazine's year-end roundup of dumb headlines (Esquire?) and is probably my single greatest journalistic achievement.

hockeymom (#143)

@jfruh First year out of college, reporting for some tiny TV station. CNN picked up my story on a cow who gave birth to sextuplets. The kicker…the farm was located between Manly and Fertile, Iowa.
22 year old me came up with many, many bad puns. At the time, I thought CNN ran the story because it was so well-written. Now, I'm pretty sure they ran it to mock me.

Pop Socket (#187)

What about the classic "Headless Body Found In Topless Bar"?

@Pop Socket And Sticks Nix Hick Pix.

It should be noted, as you clearly failed to do, that these singular headlines are not themselves winners but part of winning portfolios containing several headlines. The full list (and the presentation of headlines from which you so ignorantly used without permission) is available at … maybe you and your Awl pals should try and enter one year and see how you do. –Daniel Hunt, ACES' webmaster

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@Daniel Hunt@facebook Since when is reproducing the headlines of published news articles not fair use?

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@stuffisthings I mean, someone should really tell David Letterman.

riotnrrd (#840)

@Daniel Hunt@facebook Certainly, your winning manner and friendly suggestions have made us all fans.

mjfrombuffalo (#2,561)

One would think a guy with the name Dan Hunt would be nicer to folks who just read an article illustrating the art of the awful pun.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

@Pop Socket In my opinion, that remains the best Post headline of all time. I did enjoy Axis of Weasel quite a bit as well though.

nikodugan (#232,144)

Hi, I was the chairman of this contest.

It seems you have a staunch aversion to puns. Fair enough; I'm not a huge fan of them myself. But I (and, it appears, the judges I selected for this contest) do appreciate the occasional clever play on words, such as Mr. Roehrman's take on Dudley Moore's name — which, in two words, references both the fact that this movie was a remake and that the reviewer felt that the acting of the remake's star, Russell Brand, was just not the same as seeing the original and its star, Dudley Moore. I'd say that's a lot of information packed into one cleverly worded phrase. The same can be argued for Mr. Donahue's and Mrs. Dominick's examples.

I do not understand your disappointment with Mr. Bowman's headline — one that fits the count, is rhythmically symmetric and plays on the refrain of a common children's game. I think it achieved its goal of getting the reader to stop for a second and at least consider reading the story.

But none of this bothers me. Headline judging will always be subjective, and there will always be those who agree with the choices and those who do not. There will be a few duds mixed in with real winners when entrants must submit 3 to 5 headlines and are judged on their portfolio's overall strength; it happens. I thank you for your take and for taking time to write about our contest and the conference.

No, what bothers me about this post is its own headline. I understand that it is tailored to your readers, and aims, like the ones used as examples, to draw in the eyes and clicks of those you've established as a base as well as outliers whose additional clicks you need and who might just be influenced by a more sensationalistic take on the proceedings.

The problem here is that while I know, and you know, and your reader base knows that a headline like "Surprise! Copy Editors Are Destroying America's Newspapers (with PUNS)" is meant to be over-the-top and partially in jest, there are many others who will take it at face value. Some of those people are in a position to take away copy editors' jobs, and have used much sillier reasons recently for doing so. We don't need to hand them more ammunition, however unintentional that might be. This contest is really one of the only ways for a copy editor to get national recognition and a little extra money for an otherwise-thankless job.

On that note, I'd like to personally invite you to enter next year's contest. We created the online category a few years ago for this specific purpose; because it is in the nascent stages, the quality of submissions perhaps doesn't compare to other categories. The entry period will be from Jan. 2-31, 2013, and covers the calender year 2012. You can submit an individual entry of three to five headlines for a chance to win up to $300 (and be featured in our opening session and on our website, which, well …), or a staff entry of seven to 10 headlines from any number of employees. The individual entry is even free if you become a member of ACES when you submit. I look forward to your entries.

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