FSOU: Introduction to Punderful Headlines 101, KONY 2012

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FSOU is pleased to announce a guest lecture from Clive Longbottom-Fellow, Esquire, of the always delightful NutmegRadio.com. He avoids twitter. However, if you tweet @NutmegRadio, a graphic design volunteer may retumble Clive your tweet. Please pay very careful attention.

Welcome. Or as they say in England, welcome.

Today’s lesson is about building a foundation to express yourself in a headline. We will focus on the pun, a literary tool invented by either the English or the New York Post (as opposed to the deceased, self-proclaimed actor-slash-rapper who further proclaimed that he wasn’t a player but just crushed a lot). Although debates still rage over the origin of puns, fortunately in 2012, through the wonders of modern technology and online education, that uncertainty no longer impacts one’s ability to craft an airtight headline.

But before we get to pun content, we will discuss an often overlooked approach to pun framing, an approach that, if set up correctly, creates the safest, most flexible environment for dynamic, headline pun play.

During an earlier lecture, my esteemed colleague, Dr. Moschlavious Gumperteer, provided some valuable insights into headline writing and Search Engine Optimization. They will be tested on the mid-term exam. But what happens when you become proficient at optimizing headlines for search engines? Well, that’s when you can start getting really creative. And that’s where we begin today’s lecture.

Cover: What Can Brown (or Yellow, or Black, or Red, or Beige, or Off-White, or Women, or GBLTs, or Others, or [insert language]) Do For You? KONY 2012

It helps to have persons of a colored persuasion as dear friends prior to writing headlines. Feel free to substitute “colored” for another progressive term to identify “others” as we continue.

Now this may seem like an unnatural starting point for a lecture on headline writing, but the first rule of headline writing has nothing to do with words; rather, it is predicated on PROTECTING YOUR CAREER against the offensive headline that you will inevitably write. We call this career covering.

Career covering is not taught in today’s antiquated journalism curriculum at your run-of-the-mill, brick and mortar educational institution, a reality that probably significantly contributed to your decision to explore degree options here at FutSail Online University. But that is precisely FutSail’s competitive advantage. FutSail is about future-proofing your degree, which is why, if you have even a passing interest in prolonged success, you will take out a combination of government and private loans (or maybe look into selling some of your equity – e.g., giving up a percentage of your future income for the remainder of your life) to invest in your future with a degree from FutSail.

So how does career covering play out in the real world of headline writing?

The most recent, major headline disaster in the sporting world involved Jeremy Lin, ASIAN point guard for the NBA’s New York Knickerbockers. (Knickerbockers is the Knicks’ government name.) As you may have learned from other websites during the early stages of LINSANITY!, Lin’s defining characteristic is being a descendant of the country of Asia. It was a characteristic that led to all sorts of chaos and confusion by writers and commentators who were ill-prepared to deal with ASIANNESS outside of corner stores, laundromats, PhD labs and, to a lesser extent, Asia.

But things got real (as the kids say) when the “Chink in the Armor” headline dropped on ESPN after a less than perfect display by Lin. Chaos ensued. Predictably, the writer of said headline was relieved of his responsibilities.

Your instincts may tell you that the four-word headline is what was responsible for the headline writer’s firing. But that simply suggests that your instincts were not honed at FutSail Online University. The truth is that the headline failed well before it was even written. The failure was–now pay attention–the writer overlooking the importance of developing an “I have friends of a colored persuasion” argument IN ADVANCE. Had the headline writer attended FutSail, he would have understood that the headline should have read: “Chink in the armor: don’t fret, my roommate in college was, and still is, ASIAN.”

Now here’s where the IN ADVANCE kicks in. To support the “I have friends of a colored persuasion” argument, it is important that you ALREADY have the PUBLIC aura of being an inclusive-type. You cement this projection, for instance, by having an ASIAN friend write the FIRST! comment on the article, saying something to the effect of, “I am an ASIAN friend of the headline writer and I am not offended. Last night we went out for ASIAN food and he was very polite to the waitstaff.”

Headline writing is a proactive endeavor, not a reactive one. To take a cue from the sporting world, you have to think defense first, then you attack the headline with purpose, clarity, and faith.

If you remember one thing from this section, remember to set yourself up for success by publicly diversifying your entourage, and then begin writing. What you may sacrifice in personal comfort will be compensated in career stability ten-fold.

So now you have friends of a colored persuasion, or as those in the business call it, cover. Now what? Why puns? What qualifies as punderful?

Puns Crush a Lot

One of the biggest misconceptions in headline writing is that the headline is meant to be factual and to the point. Perhaps that was true during the Great Depression when people’s attention spans were malnourished, or when Dewey defeated Truman, but it is 2012, and people do not want to just be informed; people want entertainment, even in their headlines. It turns out that one of the most common side effects of facts served cold is chronic boredom.

Puns, however, are not only entertaining, but as few know, are also the highest form of comedy as determined by a recent Mayo Clinic study. And comedic entertainment equals web traffic, which means dollars, or if you’re very good, pounds, or if you’re only pretty good, euros.

If the goal of headline writing is to attract visitors to make it rain in your bank account (or your employer’s bank account), then the pun is your saber. Use it often.

H-8 2 Keep Score?

So now you have your cover and understand the value of the pun. That means it’s time to pick a starting point, and there’s no better starting point in sport than the score.

Keeping score is the most important aspect of professional sport, even more important than sportsmanship. Sportsmanship comes and goes, but the one thing you know will be there after every game is the score.

But even with something as vital and ever-present as the score, you have to remember that people don’t want it straight. So think Be-FOUR you write.

If a team puts eight goals past an opponent, you might say, “Gr8 Expectations!” which also happens to be a Charles Dickens novel that I have not read, nor have any intention of reading for reasons I can explain during office hours. The payoff is two-fold: (1) The reader knows that something important involving “eight” happened, which piques the interest; and (2) You can #humblebrag to your readers that you are well-read, which will eventually come into play as you try to credibly impose your manufactured authority on topics in the future, such as whether a player is fit to wear a particular shirt after a series of questionable performances.

Messi CANNES-clusion: more hits than KONY 2012 Romney Santorum

You have the flexibility that comes with cover and understand the value of punnery and scores in headlines. Now you’re ready to write.

But remember, this is just the beginning. You don’t have a degree yet. You are a freshman, or as we called them at my gender-neutral, supremely conscious institution of undergraduate learning, frosh. Your freshness signifies the beginning of your Miyagi-style training, not the end. You are effectively waxing on and off and painting fences with deliberate, broad strokes. But if you respect the process we have devised at FutSail under the tutelage of Dr. Gumperteer, you will develop the fluidity of thought required to truly master the headline and create value within an organization.

Lucky for you, FutSail is giving you the tools to operate in a sensationalized future that few realize is already upon us. Your ability to grab readers with a well-crafted headline will determine whether the subsequent 300-1500 words will ever be read, and perhaps more importantly, whether you will be dining on tuna fish or pheasant and lobster over the next ten years.

The proof is in the numbers.

In the near future, we will release a recently completed, comprehensive study on headline effectiveness, which will be published in the Harvard-FutSail Journal of Medicine and Headlines, just as soon as FutSail completes its purchase of Harvard University and the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is already common knowledge that FutSail’s business model is threatening these two traditional repositories of information. These institutions, historically recognized as Lionel Messis of highest education (a step above higher education), will have no choice but to surrender many of its assets for pennies on the dollar. What? Not possible, you say? That’s a typical response from someone without access to dreams and vast amounts of capital (which is also a book by Karl Marx – I know, top Marx for that). But once the acquisition is completed, the proof will be there for all the skeptics to see.

Sadly, we can’t release the data yet, but it does exist in the aforementioned study that will be offered to the public at a later date for four payments of a price to be determined upon release of the aforementioned study to the public at a later date.


Clive is the periodic purveyor of some culture at NutmegRadio.com. He refuses to join twitter. However, if you tweet @NutmegRadio, an intern may text Clive your tweet. Clive also has research interests. He also participates in mail par avion.

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