Headings for a fall?

When a number of broadsheet metropolitan newspapers downsized paper-size-wise over recent decades, they called their new format a “quality compact” for fear their highly respected product would be then tarnished forever as a trashy tabloid. Heaven forbid, eh?

The reality was, of course, that some did immediately become a trashy tabloid. The conversion wasn’t all that difficult seeing they had already been trashy broadsheets. Now they were only half as bad, in physical size at least. The Courier-Mail comes immediately to mind.

Others held out for a while but the true sign of decline into trashy tabloididity was to look at the way headings turned from the serious application of a sub-editor’s craft to pure punsville. A play on words became far more important than a serious heading that made sense.

And with that introductory explanation, we turn our attention to recent editions of The Sydney Morning Herald and its sister Sunday, The Sun-Herald.

Let’s start with this morning’s main sports heading on the back page of The Sun-Herald.

Before we delve into the reasons why the sub-editor came up with SWAIN AND ABLE please don’t feel ashamed if you have already decided it’s absolutely pathetic. You’re spot on. It is.

You see, a second rower by the name of Darcy Swain was red-carded in the first half of last night’s gutsy win by the Wallabies over England.

We think SWAIN AND ABLE is a play on Cain and Abel and that might have made some sense if it had been a Brothers rugby union side playing against England. Sadly, no.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. The game was last night and time pressure would have well and truly been on for the sub to come up with a heading with such a limited word count. If the sub had only had more time, the heading would have been much, much better.

Well, probably not. Let’s so back a day to Saturday’s SMH.

Here are two headings from the early news pages of that edition. Avo good look as you’d feta believe it!

Okay! Okay. Don’t write in. We’re being a bit silly and a little bit too picky ourselves now.

Is there no place in a serious compact for such silly plays on words?

In light-hearted pieces like these food yarns, yes, they’re forgivable. There is a place for silliness in a serious, quality compact. And why shouldn’t the one sub-editor left at those Herald mastheads have some fun during a long and lonely shift?

At the very least, “avo” and “feta” are way, way, ahead of SWAINE AND ABLE.

PS: Just in case you’re wondering, the Pommy chap that Darcy Swaine allegedly headbutted had the surname Hill.