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Sum of a preacher man (and other 2021 headlines, Volume II)

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Mike Wills is a journalist and talk show host.

The sometimes bizarre – and often near-genius – world of modern-day headline writing (and the conundrum of why so many strange headlines are about either New Zealand or Nicki Minaj)

Six months ago, in these digital pages, I bemoaned the death of the great traditional headline. With the tightening of media budgets, the demise of the crusty sub-editor and the pervasive need to bait click, a clever, seductive headline has become a rare creature. I still collect them when they appear and have three gems for you from the second half of 2021.

Only bitter bothered as arbiter declares batter betterThe Guardian’s brilliant headline on cricket’s decision to replace the word “batsman” with the gender-neutral “batter”.

Sum of a preacher man – a typical classic from The Economist on an article about an extremely rich Nigerian pastor.

Avocado glut leaves Australian farmers crushed as prices hit guac bottom – smart wordplay from The Washington Post.

But the general decline of the great headline has forced me to shift from collecting fine examples to collecting bewildering ones. (Well, bewildering to me, at least.) And my digital vault for July to December 2021 has plenty of them coming from the websites of a wide variety of genuine, well-known media outlets including News24, BusinessLive, TimesLive, iol.co.za, Daily Mail, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph, Buzzfeed, NY Times and Washington Post.

Some are weird, a few are funny, many are simply “huh?”, and a surprisingly large number are about either New Zealand or Nicki Minaj. All of them are genuine and unedited.

For starters, the highly coveted “Dullest Headline of the Year Award” goes to News24.com with:

PICS | Little to no activity outside FW de Klerk’s Cape Town home

Some Headline Questions You Never Thought To Ask

Is Nigella Lawson right to ditch the word ‘slut’ from her recipe name?

The smart toilet era is here! Are you ready to share your analprint with big tech?

Would You Have Sex In Front Of Astro, Amazon’s New Robot Dog?

Could a POO transplant treat Covid?

Are we really giving Gwyneth Paltrow all the credit for sex toy sales exploding by 87%?

Has the latest status symbol become a vegan dog?

Could rogue oysters disrupt rowing venue?

Headline Wokery  

Even the word ‘trigger’ is just too triggering for university students

Racism row at the Vegan Society: Five trustees quit over claim veganism is ‘cultural appropriation’ because it was founded by white British man but uses foods and traditions from Africa and Asia

Great British Bake Off’s first vegan star Freya Cox, 19, is forced to quit Facebook after trolls target her over her love of ‘cruel’ horse-riding

Prince Charles says his Aston Martin is powered by wine and cheese

Eat the buggers: faux-meat maggot and mealworm burgers are the future

From the politics desk

There is no Cabinet to reshuffle, says Moeletsi Mbeki

Elections 2021: Vote ANC because it is a self-correcting organisation, says Mbalula

TV news anchor joins Dagga Party, wants to be Cape Town mayor

EFF will not only take over the wine farms in Stellenbosch, it will drink the wine, says Malema

GAUTENG WATER RESTRICTIONS: It’s not a crisis; it’s a necessary inconvenience, says Minister Senzo Mchunu

International news

South Korean politicians seek to criminalise ‘semen terrorism’

President Joe Biden allegedly farted in front of the Duchess of Cornwall at COP26

Donald Trump didn’t want to build a golf course in Africa because he was ‘too scared of lions’

Swedish inmates in a high security prison took 2 guards hostage and demanded pizza as ransom

Piers Corbyn leads flash mob of Covid deniers chanting ‘wearing a mask is like trying to keep a fart in your trousers’ as they break into song on Tube train

‘You can shove your climate crisis up your arse’: Greta Thunberg sings at Cop26

‘Is everything OK, Boris?’ PM brushes off bizarre speech to business chiefs saying it ‘went over well’ despite losing his train of thought, praising Peppa Pig World, comparing himself to MOSES and doing an impression of a car ENGINE

Boris Johnson is not unwell and has not lost his grip, says No 10

Kiwi battiness

Consternation in New Zealand as native bat included in Bird of the Year poll

Bat ‘winning by quite a lot’ in New Zealand’s Bird of the Year contest

New Zealand bat flies away with Bird of the Year award

New Zealand police arrest pair trying to enter Auckland with ‘large amount’ of KFC

New Zealand minister’s TV interview interrupted by son waving phallic carrot

Sporting headlines

German modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner thrown out of Tokyo 2020 after punching horse

Sandgren hit in groin, defaults after striking line judge with ball

Winner of Bristol half-marathon is disqualified after running wrong race because he was only meant to take part in the 10k

Joey Barton apologises for comparing Bristol Rovers displays to Holocaust

England yob who was filmed snorting cocaine then sticking a flare up his backside reveals how he went on to storm Wembley after drinking 20 cans of cider – but insists: ‘I’m NOT sorry

Headline Celebridiocy

Nicki Minaj Tweeted About Her Cousin’s Friend’s Swollen Testicles And People Lost It

Fauci responds to Nicki Minaj vaccine claims, says vaccines do not cause swollen testicles

Trinidad & Tobago has confirmed they have no record of Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s swollen balls

Kanye West’s friend thinks he could end up learning ‘an alien language’

Jada Pinkett Smith And Willow Smith Explain Why They Decided Against Getting Brazilian Butt Lifts

Madonna’s daughter Lourdes proudly shows off armpit hair at Met Gala

Go f*** yourselves — Bonang slams tweeps telling her to have a baby soon

Andrew Lloyd Webber says he hated the film Cats so much he bought a dog

Elon Musk thinks you should die

And in other news…

Girlfriend warms to a house spider and keeps it as a ‘pet’ for A YEAR – before moving it into her ‘horrified’ boyfriend’s home where they now feed it flies and call it their ‘little girl’

Winner who paid $30m for space flight with Bezos won’t go due to ‘scheduling conflicts’

BBC Weather presenter pulled over by dog on live TV

Night crawler: Late-night visitor ringing woman’s doorbell turns out to be a SLUG

Female Spanish thriller writer Carmen Mola revealed to be three men

Spanish bishop, 52, who quit clergy to be with erotic-fiction writing sexologist lover, 38, is accused of being ‘possessed’ as he finds new job exporting pig semen. DM

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