Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sports Editor explains headline

By Justin Buchanan, Sports Editor

justin_hsSports Editor Justin Buchanan. Photo by Emily Biggs.

I did it. I wrote the headline.

Headlines are the shortest yet most difficult thing to write in the news business.

Headlines are often the only thing someone reads when sifting through a newspaper.

Reader’s eyes sweep over the page, glossing over photos and reading the largest words. Hopefully those words capture attention and deliver a promise of a compelling read.

Our challenge as editors is that we want the words to capture attention so our audience will dig deeper into our words and learn the whole story.

On Dec. 1 at about midnight, I had just received a dodgeball article so I began thinking over a number of headlines to persuade a reader to invest their time into the article.

Some of my original ideas were Voodoo Magic wins dodgeball championship or Voodoo Magic defeats FSU.

But after talking it over with other editors, we agreed they were too cliché and expected. We also believed people would not understand what FSU stood for, maybe even mistaking it for Florida State University or a gang.

My original headlines just didn’t work, so I focused my attention on other tasks until about 3 a.m. when I came up with the headline F--- S--- drops the ball – without the dashes of course.

We then met as an editorial board and discussed four main questions presented by editor-in-chief junior Heather Perry: 1) Did the headline represent what happened? 2) What did the AP stylebook say? 3) Was using the words worth it? 4) Are we ready to defend it?

After much discussion and debate, the majority of editors present felt the headline was worthy of press.

We made the decision as a team because that’s how we operate. We have always collaborated on everything we have done this year, making sure everyone voiced their opinion even if it contradicted.

At the end of that discussion and debate, I had the support of my staff.

I thought using the full team name illustrated the rebellious nature of the dodgeball teams and some of the PLU community.

To me, swearing was a part of PLU’s culture. For the last two years, Tingelstad’s motto was “Go hard. Win s---.“ The Knit Wits and the Women’s Center were advertising an event called Stitch ‘n’ B---- on posters around campus.

When I walk around campus and sit in class, I hear students, professors and staff swearing and not just during academic exercises. It’s swearing for the sake of swearing.

I honestly believed the headline was not going to be an issue, because rebelliousness is synonymous with in our culture especially with the on going Occupy protests.

To me, it was the best headline to represent the article. It captured the attention of the reader and summed up the article if the reader didn’t read the whole thing.

I had no fears that it used the words f--- and s--- because the two words were a part of a proper noun. We had it on record that the team name was known as F--- S--- Up by other students and dodgeball players.

When interviewing the dodgeball players, they told me that F--- S--- Up was their name, despite their name being officially listed as F.S.U.

Although it is not an excuse, one of the challenges we face as student editors is balancing everything in our lives. Currently I’m taking capstone with a full class load and work three other jobs full time. In a typical night I don’t often get to bed before 3 a.m. only to have to get up by 8 a.m.

So at 4 a.m. on Dec. 1, I thought that headline sounded appropriate but it wasn’t. It should not have made it into the newspaper. I apologize that it did.

I now know of my mistake and will seek to not repeat it again in the future. I have certainly learned my lesson, and getting my money’s worth.

The headline was a mistake that distracted our readers from other more important articles, such as Kevin Knodell’s wonderfully written column concerning Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland that he stayed up until 8 a.m. to write.

Going forward, I will learn from this mistake and take it as a learning experience.

I hope you continue to read The Mooring Mast. I, along with everyone else here on staff put in countless hours in making this publication the best it can be for you, our readers.