Behind those screaming headlines
By P K Kuruvilla
03rd September 2012 12:24 AM
With doing an MD becoming more imperative, and also publishing your research articles in indexed journals being a criterion for promotion for those in teaching posts, scientific writing is being taken up more seriously by the noble profession. Medical journals, Indian and videshi, are invariably dull and a major contributory factor is the list of long and boring titles the articles have. Perhaps scientific writers are terrified of journalism, and desperate to avoid any hint of sensationalism veer too far in the opposite direction. Sure enough, if you are going to caption you study about the effect of background low dose radiation on those in the vicinity of a nuclear plant as ‘Leukaemia shock from nuclear waste dump’ or so, an editor will be put off. On the other hand, an attractive title grabs the attention of the editor, assessor and reader alike. It may be worth it for all wannabe writers to listen to the take of a famous man of letters.
G K Chesterton once said: “It is the practice of the journalists to put the end of the story at the beginning and call it a headline. Journalism largely consists in saying ‘Lord Jones Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.” Perhaps a bit uncharitable to those in the fourth estate; nonetheless, witty and getting to the heart of the matter. Some catchy headlines are remembered for long, and sports columnists are in a league of their own. The touring English team went about thrashing the Aussies in the Ashes series in 1970-’71 and pace bowler John Snow was the chief wrecker of many Australian innings. The headlines in Australian papers had a hint of desperation: ‘No rains, More Snow’ went the captions.
However, the account of India’s poor performance at the Los Angeles Olympics was summed up as ‘The last Indian athlete jumped himself out of the Olympics’. May be the reporter was technically correct but a tad too disparaging, a trifle disappointing. Certainly a caption such as ‘Underwood turns under taker’ hit the nail on the head about the awesome leg spinner’s performance on the sticky pitch. A catchy headline like ‘Loyola Lifts Trophy’ would make one wonder whether the basketball team from the Chennai college grabbed the cup and ran away when nobody else was looking around.
Amul advertisements and their one-liners have been captivating a million imaginations in India for decades now. ‘VVS draws his own Lakshman Rekha’ said the Amul advertisement just last week — very effectively saying that the stylish batsman is saying ‘enough is enough’. The pathos of an Anand Jones being handed down a life sentence by the US court, after a prolonged legal battle, was fully brought out by the pithy comment, ‘No Anand for Jones’.
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