Lesson #7: Giving good headline

lessons in journalismThe Bug is delighted that the world’s greatest ever media mogul, Rupert Murdoch (pictured with wife Jerry), has taken time out of his busy schedule of early morning, lunchtime and evening naps to be our guest lecturer in our occasional series on how to succeed in the Fourth Estate.

By The Bug’s guest lecturer Rupert Murdoch

It seems so 20th Century now but there was a time when a story’s intro and the headline written for it both strove for fairness. Take a political story, for example. The intro would be qualified with quote marks or words such as “Libs claim” or some such silly, old-fashioned thing. The heading would try to do the same.

But, of course, that’s just a lot of nonsense in plying our wonderful trade in the 21stC. Luckily, even though I have never, ever, issued directions to any of my newspapers or electronic media outlets – and I never will – I really do appreciate that I have many writers and sub-editors who are committed to the same standards I expect of Newscorp publications across the country; indeed across my global network.

Of course, attributions and qualifications should still be employed if it’s a proactive story from the Labor Party we’re using but, goodness me, when is that ever likely to happen? We generally run with reactive LNP responses to any propaganda Labor tries to pump out. It’s only right that we do that.

labor voters stungAnyway, above is an excellent example from that most respected national broadsheet, The Australian, earlier this week (pictured). Isn’t that a wonderful headline? No ambiguity. No qualifications. Just letting the paper’s readership know exactly what will happen to Labor voters if they stupidly let Shorten into power.

What I particularly like is the way it completely ignores the wishy-washy intro. I have no idea what Adam and Michael were thinking. I bet they copped a bullocking from their editors, not that I would contact The Oz and suggest that to happen. I never have, and I never will. It’s simply not my style.

Besides, who gives a fuck, if you’ll pardon the French,  how many property investors voted Labor last time round! Or that they got their info from some eggheads who did a study.

The bottom line is that the sub got the heading right; the intro should have been much the same. Just a bit longer.

Let’s look at another recent example of what I’m talking about. My goodness, Renee Viellaris at The Courier-Mail is typical of the highly professional people I employ at all of my Newscorp mastheads around Australia. She is a wonderful writer who is going to go far.

big rent billIn fact, I’m absolutely sure she’s right up there in the class of the likes of Paul Whittaker, Christopher Dore and Peter Gleeson. There will be no glass ceiling for that lass, I can assure you.

Her story (pictured right) is superb, as is its treatment by the sub-editor. Isn’t it a ripper? Just look at that heading! And what a fantastic wordplay around ‘Bill”.

And Renee’s intro simply nails it. Both are perfect. I won’t be contacting the paper to praise their efforts or suggest any promotions for them. I never interfere in any of my newsrooms; not to praise nor to criticise. It’s just not my way. Never has been. Never will be.

But if I had to guess, I imagine whoever is the editor at The Courier-Mail will be chatting to the sub who handled that main yarn of Renee’s inside the book (pictured below).

I’m pretty sure Renee would not have put the word disastrous in quotes in the story she submitted. And as for putting ground zero in quotes too in an otherwise perfectly fine heading, what were they thinking?

As I mentioned at the outset, those sorts of things are so last century and were probably done by one of the few old fuddy-duddy subs they haven’t gotten around to getting rid of yet at the Courier. But they won’t be getting any instructions from me on that matter.

I have never intervened with any masthead under my control. Never have. Never will. I simply expect all of my employees to get things absolutely right. And they invariably do.