Please keep the same headline throughout

The Times is starting to annoy me. The newspaper has thrown me several times recently by the way it now uses titles when an inside page continues an article that started on the back page. Here’s a recent example. On 20 June 2022, the back page (page 64) reported on a rugby union match between England and the Barbarians. The headline was: Jones suffers heaviest loss in Barbarian rout. The back page contains the first 3 paragraphs and the beginning of the 4th, breaking in mid-sentence. There follows the statement: Continued on page 62

The story then continues (mid-sentence!) on page 62 under the new headline:
Jones: Back-heeled kick was fine by me, the game’s about fun.
continued from back

Why did this throw me?

I expect an article to keep the same headline throughout, even if the article continues on a different page. But their new style seems to be to invent a new headline for the rest of the article, rather than keep the original headline.

I find this particularly disorienting because I often only skim the headlines on the back page, especially if an article (or part of an article) on that page doesn’t contain much content. But then often when I get to the rest of the article, I start reading it in more detail—as indeed in this case. I might then want to back-track to read the beginning, but finding the start takes time because it seems to be talking about something else.

In this particular case, there was a brief reference to the ‘back-heeled kick’ in the portion of the article on the back page. There was more detail in the rest of the article on the inside page. But the new headline chosen for the inside page wasn’t the most helpful. It didn’t link the inside page to the back page. And it didn’t serve as a guide to the content of the portion on the inside page.

That’s enough now

The Times keeps doing this to me. I think it should stop.

Background on rugby union

Eddie Jones is the head coach of the national rugby union team for England.

The Barbarians is an invitation team that plays occasional exhibition matches, picking prominent players who do not normally play together or train together.

In this match, one of the Barbarian players was playing the final match of his professional career. He does not normally take kicks and is not known for having any kicking ability. Nevertheless, in this match he scored points for his team by taking 3 ‘conversion’ kicks successfully. As added humiliation for the England team, one of the successful kicks was a back heel, rather than a conventional kick.

One comment

  1. Some American newspapers have found a simple way to avoid the confusion caused by rewriting a story’s title on its continuation page.

    At the end of the portion of a story on its start page, they reference a one-word title used on the continuation page. Here is a recent example from our local newspaper:
    • Headline of the story on its start page: “Employers seek students this summer to ease workforce crisis”.
    • Reference at the end of the portion of the story on its start page: “See EMPLOYMENT, Page 7A”.
    • Headline of the continuation on page 7A: “Employment: Continued from Page 1A”.

    I’m fairly sure I have seen a variant of this single-word reference in some newspapers, though I cannot find an example at the moment. Instead of inventing a one-word reference as the title of the continuation, they use the actual first one or two or three words from the original headline. This would change the above example as follows:
    • Reference at the end of the portion of the story on its start page: “See EMPLOYERS SEEK, Page 7A”.
    • Headline of the continuation on page 7A: “Employers Seek: Continued from Page 1A”.

    This variant avoids reinventing even the one-word title.

    I suppose The Times’s response to the one- or two-word approach might be that they want the title on the continuation page to be a “grabber” – attracting a reader who may have missed the story on its start page. Then, Peter’s point is particularly valid. If they wrote the ideal “grabber” at the original start of the story, why switch to something entirely different, and potentially confusing, on the continuation page?

    Clearly, The Times didn’t have space-saving in mind. Their original title was seven words, the continuation title twelve words.

    As it happens, the example cited above from our local newspaper is especially relevant to Peter’s lament. On page 7A, in addition to the continuation of the story from page 1A, is a new and separate but related story:
    • Headline of the new and separate story on page 7A: “New college grads make most of hot job market”.

    If the policy of our local paper were, like The Times, to write a new, full-length headline for a continuation, the reader might well have mistaken the new and separate story about college grads on page 7A for the continuation of the original page 1A story about summer jobs for students.

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