Heading in the wrong direction

The Bug’s Media Glass House is proud to announce a major new award to honour non-excellence in mainstream media around the nation.

Unlike our existing Arse Licker of the Month award that shines a light on the very worst our brown-nosing politics writers can conjour up – and in Australia that means it’s usually rightwing sphincters being licked godly clean – our exciting new Worst Heading of the Year award is aimed at honouring the production side of media – all the remaining sub-editors out there and there must be dozens of you – for the headings they create for print media or online stories.

And to show just how fiercely competitive this race for a trophy that we are currently designing will be, at top is this outstanding example from today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It’s gone straight into our electronic data base for 2021 entries and quite frankly we think it might be hard to beat even though there’s still more than five months left.

It’s got “trying far too hard to be clever” written all over it.

For those who were alive back then, “Not happy, Jan!” was the brilliant ending to a Yellow Pages ad that screened from 2000, where a business woman screams as her staffer scurries away down the street after forgetting to place the firm’s ad in the directory.

A wonderful, clever, creative ad that put “Not happy, Jan!” into the Australian vernacular as a catch phrase used to express a feeling of bitter discontent or disappointment, albeit in an understated kind of way.

Hence the opening three words of today’s SMH heading. And where the problems with this heading really begin and end.

“Api” refers to Apisai Koroisau, who was fined $35,000 and suspended for two matches by the NRL for bringing a woman into the Blues hotel in Brisbane during Origin II camp.

The MGH doesn’t know if Koroisau goes by the name Api – his current wife calls him that – and nor do we care, really.

The Jean refers to Doctor Jeannette Young, Queensland’s chief medical officer quoted right at the end of the yarn, delivering her warning that the NRL season is done and dusted if another player acts as stupidly as Koroisau has.

The MGH doesn’t know whether Dr Young sometimes goes by Jean – we doubt it – but, you see, Jean is pretty close to Jan so that’s the way it had to go in this most-likely-exhausted, overworked, sub-editor’s mind. It’s a bit like calling William Shakespeare Bill to stretch a point or make a connection.

Personally, we would have just used Jen, or even Jan, not that using Jen or Jan would have saved this heading. It’s a shocker.

It doesn’t work on several levels, not the least being that Jan in the original ad is the wrongdoer in trouble with her boss.

And to be fair to the SMH, the tortured “Not happy, Jan!” connection was missing from the story online.

There was a time in mainstream media journalism that sub-editors were trained well enough or with enough experience to know instinctively that while there’s nothing wrong at all with spending a little bit of time to work up a clever heading that might help grab a Walkley, a little voice in the sub’s mind would say “Nah!” and they’d turn to a no-nonsense, normal, heading instead.

Editor’s note: This heading appeared in a country edition of Saturday’s SMH. We could probably bet the bottom dollar we don’t have that it made it through all editions.