Monday, July 1, 2013

Oy, [Headline Writer]

The GOP Can't Win With Eric Cantor as Its Ambassador
OK, here's the deal. Conor Friedersdorf had a perfectly fine column over at The Atlantic today giving Eric Cantor the business for being a wet sack of mush, at least in his rhetoric. Friedersdorf listens carefully to Cantor and hears nothing but the stalest of cliches; no policy, no stirring language, nothing.

And it's a modest column; Friedersdorf ends with a "to be sure" paragraph noting that the job of a House Majority Leader can be more inside than outside, more nuts and bolts than rhetoric, and about the biggest claim he makes beyond his immediate analysis of Cantor is that he doesn't sound much like a future president. Well, sure.

And yet, of nowhere, we get "The GOP Can't Win With Eric Cantor as Its Ambassador." Which is an utterly ridiculous thing to say, and one that Friedersdorf neither said nor hinted at in the piece.

I don't know for a fact, but I assume that Friedersdorf didn't write the headline -- when Salon and TAP write headlines for me, I don't see them until I read the piece.

This isn't the first time I've written a post ragging on a headline when the article was fine, but as usual I don't really know whether it's worth it. On the one hand: what are you going to do? On the other: it's certainly true that far more people see the headline than see the article.

At any rate: no, the rhetorical skills of the House Majority Leader are not going to matter electorally, pretty much no matter what. Indeed, none of the skills of the House Majority Leader are likely to matter in future elections. I doubt that one in a hundred Americans has any idea who Eric Cantor is (or who Steny Hoyer was before that, or any of the rest of them). For that matter, I very much doubt that a Speaker's rhetorical skills matter at all. Elections just don't work that way.


  1. Out of pure curiosity for the world you live in as a blogger: can you include a suggested title in your submissions? Does that vary much by outlet? For that matter: how DO you submit your pieces? Emailed text? Word file attachments? Online upload?

    1. I use the Post's internal system, which requires me to write a headline -- Greg usually writes his own for Plum Line pieces, while the various Post editors who edit my PP posts usually, but not always, use what I wrote.

      I don't usually bother submitting suggested headlines for columns (and, since you asked, I usually use email attachments).


  2. Slate is the worse for headlines that totally differ from the article. If you read the comment threads you'll find that a huge amount of debate is generated between people who just reader the header and never bothered to read the article vs. people who actually read the article.

    It is understandable when the tabloid press creates misleading headlines but it ticks me off when publications aspire to respectability should hold themselves to a higher standard.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?