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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The New York At-Any-Times

The New York At-Any-Times

Continuing my Times blogging, there was a story the other day that reminded me of a game a few friends and I played in college. The Times has never had the type of facility with snappy headlines that encapsulate a story like good tabloids (For a list of the best ever tabloid headlines, click here, with the New York Post’s “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” and the Daily News’s “Ford to City: Drop Dead” vying for the title of all-time best).

At any rate, we would look for headlines in the Times that could have appeared at any point in recent history. The idea is that headline writers get lazy and produce headlines that strive for the universal and portentous but end up lacking any information at all. Headlines like “Israelis, Palestinians Dispute Territory,” “Environmentalists, Developer At Odds Over New Building,” or “Parents Appalled by New Teen Dance Craze" would all count. An example of a real one appeared in 2006, "African Children Often Lack Available AIDS Treatment" .

Anyway, the one from the other day was a true beaut: "Ancient Tablet Inspires Debate on Messiah and Resurrection" However, I don't think this one can beat the all-time best, which was also about a debate between religious scholars and appeared last September.

"Irreconcilable Differences in Bible's Interpretations"

The best thing about this one is that it not only could have appeared in any issue in the history of the New York Times but also would have been good in publications like the Holy Roman Empire Post-Dispatch of the early 1600s or the Toledo Talmudic Scholarship Review of 1304.

Can anyone beat that one? Or have any suggestions for ones that are just pretty good?

Posted by David Schleicher on July 9, 2008 at 10:42 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Times headlines many not have the snappiness of a good Post front-pager, but they're often marvels of subtlety. Every now and again, I come across a headline that could only have come from the Times. It often contains a comma. Other publications also have distinctive house headline styles; the Wall Street Journal comes to mind.

Nice observation!

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Jul 9, 2008 11:22:11 PM

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