Post by Ross Post by Sam Plusnet Post by Ross Post by Quinn C Post by Ross Post by Quinn C Post by Quinn C
Today, two recent headlines from BBC news caught my eye.
Saudi woman granted Canada asylum
What I find remarkable is that you can refer to a specific person like
that, dropping the article and all. I guess the default interpretation
is "The Saudi woman, you know who, the one that was all over the news
s I think headline-ese genuinely neutralizes the opposition between definite
and indefinite. That headline would have been equally appropriate if the
woman had not previously been in the news. The full report would say "A
Saudi woman has been granted asylum in Canada....", proceeding to fill in details about her.
The latter, which would be my default interpretation with no context,
has the issue that the headline doesn't contain anything newsworthy.
"Dog bites man".
The story would presumably explain what was newsworthy about that particular
case. There's no requirement that the headline tell you everything.
Sure, but the headline is there to make me interested.
I really don't see it that way. The headline simply tells you what the
story is about; that can help you decide whether to read it or not.
Perhaps the headline on the lead front-page story will be juiced up
to grab people's attention and sell the paper (sometimes by making the
story look more interesting than it really is). But there's no reason
the rest have to be. What people are interested in will vary enormously.
The headline was on the BBC News website and not a printed newspaper, I
think that makes a difference.
OK, but what difference?
It does make a diference in the cae of the BBC website.
Many articles on the BBC website are also available on TV screens using
the "Red Button" text news service. Headlines need to be short enough to
"Red Button" is named for the fact that you press the red button on the
remote to acces the service. The video image is reduced to a quarter of
it's size to make room for the text.
Examples:Loading Image...Loading Image...
The person who took that photo was using the TV to listen to BBC Radio
The following shows the news index. There are also indexes for sport,
weather, travel, business, entertainment, etc.Loading Image...
Each item in the index leads to a list of headlines. This image is from
some years ago, but the principle is the same:Loading Image...
The text material used in that onscreen text service is automatically
extracted from the html files created for the website.
The headline of an article must be short enough to fit in the limited
onscreen space. The text that appears onscreen is part of the html file
marked as starting "story-body__introduction". So the writer/editor of
an article has to be aware that the first few sentences should be a
summary of the important points of the article. For example a current
news item is:
The html file has:
<p class="story-body__introduction">MPs are preparing to vote on
whether to back Theresa May's deal for leaving the European Union.
</p><p>The so-called "meaningful vote" will take place later as five
days of debate on Brexit come to an end.</p><p>Mrs May has called for
politicians to back her deal or risk "letting the British people
down".</p>><p>But with many of her own MPs expected to join opposition
parties to vote against the deal, it is widely expected to be
defeated.</p><p>Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has opened the last day of
debate, with Mrs May due to close the debate with a speech from about
The Red Button text service uses as much of that as will fit on to two
half-screens. In that case up to "defeated".
Post by Ross
I'm not sure what you or Quinn are suggesting
at this point. Should it have been more exciting? How? They could have
mentioned her name, but I suspect they judged it was not yet familiar
Post by Sam Plusnet
The headline appears on the main page of the website & you need to
"click through" to get to the body of the story.
An intriguing headline is going to attract more clicks.
Your description of the purpose of a headline reminded me of "David
Copperfield" and its chapter headings. You could speed read the whole
book by digesting those (lengthy) chapter headings & forget about the
rest of the text.
Some 19th century newspapers had headlines like that -- really synopses of
the story. Nowadays they are under much severer length limitations.
Peter Duncanson, UK