Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Headline of the Year 2012

Before you say anything, I know it's ironic for "Headline of the Year" to have such a boring title. But I love irony, so what of it?

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, last year I did a countdown of the best headlines I'd come across that year. This year I'm just doing more of my one good idea, à la Tim Berners Lee.

I don't know if 2 years is enough to count as a tradition. I hope not, though. I bloody hate tradition. Anyway, here's my rundown of the year's funniest, weirdest and most badly-written headlines. Get your scroll bar ready, this year it's a long one.


Cast your minds back, if you please, to 2011's Headline of the Year. The first entry, dated January 8th was "Cheeky Girl cautioned for shoplifting in Cheshire". Remarkably, on January 9th 2012, the BBC threw out this:

Antony Worrall Thompson 'sorry' for Tesco shoplifting

Everything about this remarkable story was amusing. The idea that you could "seek treatment" for shoplifting cheddar, the plethora of "Ready Steady Crook" jokes, but mostly the image of AWT shoving a wheel of Edam under his chef's hat and trying to leave the shop in a nonchalant manner. At least that's how I imagine it.


February 20th takes us away from public service broadcasting, to a nice little entry from the Guardian:

Jazz FM in a funk after gay porn gaffe

It's our first slightly ambiguous headline. Have Jazz FM made a gaffe in their gay porn venture? No. It turns out they accidentally played some gay porn in the middle of "Funky Sensation". I don't know about you, but if I was tuning into a programme called "Funky Sensation", porn is exactly what I would be expecting. I also like the way it says "what appeared to be a soundtrack to a gay porn film". I bet there were some awkward looks around the room to see who'd be the first to mention it. I like the idea that an elderly couple are listening to Funky Sensation, and as it is interrupted by a single groan Ethel goes "What're they playing gay porn for??" much to Herbert's disgust.  I wonder how many people thought it was just experimental jazz. The article explains that it played in the background of the music. Personally I think they might have just been playing Daddy Cool by Boney M. Or I just use any excuse to bring out that video. And how offensive can porn be on the radio anyway?

February 25th:
Giant Charity Eggs Reported Missing
Enough said. (here)


March was an exceptionally boring month. Can you remember anything you did in March? I didn't think so. But it was worth waiting through March to get to April 6th.

The Daily Mail is a well know bastion of quality journalism. Ok, they're not. That was sarcasm. I usually avoid going on the Mail's website for fear of giving them ad revenue, but the Mail deserves money for this:

Gravy-wrestling model suffers horrific facial injuries after being hit with monkey wrench when she interrupted a friend having sex

As readers of last year's Headline of the Year will know, I love a headline that tells you exactly what's happened like this one. Now, I don't want to make light of "horrific facial injuries", but here's how my thought process went reading this:

"Gravy-wrestling model..." wow, they have gravy wrestling? If I did that I'd tell my parents I was a doctor. I wonder if it's a gateway into proper modelling. weird. "...suffers horrific facial injuries..." oh dear. I feel bad for dwelling too long on gravy wrestling. "...after being hit with a monkey..." hahaha! a monkey has lightened up this story significantly! "....wrench..." fuck. more guilt. what's a monkey wrench? "...when she interrupted a friend..." erm? "...having sex" sex! I wasn't expecting that. I wish I was having sex...

And you know the awful thing? This is the EXACT thought process the Mail wanted me to have. I've read a lot of headlines for Headline of the Year yet I never expected to see one with gravy, wrestling, facial injuries, monkeys, wrenches and sex in it. It sounds like the synopsis of a David Lynch film.

And just a few days later, on the tenth, we were treated to another gem from the beeb:

Coffin-shaped pie advert slammed

This is about an advert featuring a coffin shaped pie to warn people about obesity in a town where they needed an extra large mortuary for the bigger bodies. It was paid for by Peta to encourage veganism. I like it because I have a bit of an obsession with terribly judged campaign ads which began with 10:10 blowing up children for climate change, carried on with Peta raping women for veganism, reinforced by Herman Cain's tax dodging killer chickens and now consolidated by Peta who are back to finish the job of putting everyone off animal rights.

Now, aside from the inarguable fact that a society needing extra large mortuaries for its fatties is pretty disgraceful, putting up a sign that basically says "be veggie or die" is not only misleading, but is also pretty unlikely to make anyone support your cause. It just adds to the conspiracy theory that Peta are actually funded by a meat lobby (I assume they exist) designed to give vegetarians a bad name.

And the headline's funny.

I wasn't lying when I said April was a good month for headlines. By the 15th, we have this:

Guinea pig 'explosion' causes chaos for Cambridgeshire charity

I can't help but think this is a deliberately misleading headline. It's not just my deliberate pedantic misunderstanding that led me to click on it expecting exploding guinea pigs, is it? A chaotic display of pandemonium as guinea pig flesh drips from the ceiling.
Alas, the article is about a population explosion, but I guess if they'd written "Lots of guinea pigs in Cambridgeshire" no-one would have read it.


May now, and another headline that makes us go, "eh?":

Germany united by nudity, divided by attitude

And while you're trying to work out what on earth that meant, across the pond on May 14th, abc gave us this:

Girl With Flesh-Eating Disease Can't Remember Events

It basically sounds like she's failed a history test. Cut the girl some slack, she was probably distracted by the flesh eating disease. Don't read the article, it's actually really sad but I will add that the "girl" is actually 24. Mild sexism. That's going to ruin her day.

Worried that last headline was a bit grim? How about a light piece of local news:

Cat trapped up tree

What's more alarming is that this stereotypical piece of local news...isn't local! It's from the Express and Star.

This next headline gets 8 points for its bizarreness. It's so bizarre it gets points when there isn't even a points system in place, and rivals the gravy model injured by a monkey for dark comedy. It also gets points for being the headline on our list which most sounds like the first day of a zombie apocalypse.

Naked man shot dead while eating another man's face

If a good headline makes you want to read more, then this one is the best. Luckily all questions were soon answered, prompting another fantastic headline:

Face-Eating Attack Possibly Prompted by 'Bath Salts,' Authorities Suspect

Strangely, May 29th was accompanied by a 90% drop in the share price of Lush.

Someone contact the Darwin awards, I think we have a winner:

Serpent-handling pastor profiled earlier in Washington Post dies from rattlesnake bite

This man believed, and preached, that God can cure you from snake bites, creating a fantastic opportunity for an "I told you so". I also like that the Washington Post were so proud at having found this nutter first that they put it in the headline.


Our first headline of June comes from the Mail. I don't read the Mail very often, and every time I do they have ridiculous and quotable headlines like this:

Cats away! Artist turns his dead pet into flying helicopter after it is killed by a car

I think they have stories like this every day. Maybe next year I'll just have a link to the Daily Mail website instead of doing all this. And start claiming the EU gives you cancer.

Our next headline comes courtesy of The Onion:

Dull and Boring become sister communities

Except it's not from the Onion, its from a reputable broadsheet. It's about two towns being twinned, and wouldn't look out of place on April 1st, particularly when it refers to "The Boring Community Planning Organisation". That could be any community planning organisation.


When I came across this next headline in July I thought it was shocking and ridiculous. Following the massacre at a midnight screening of the Dark Knight Rises:

Denver Batman massacre 'an argument for more 

guns' says NRA member

Of course, at the time I didn't realise that just five months later the NRA would argue for more guns following the Sandy Hook massacre. That's what will stop all the shootings: more guns.


OK, so I admit I didn't get any decent headlines for a while. I blame events, not myself. This article's not from November, it's from January, but I don't play by the rules.

Man Says Ghost Punched Wife, Paranormal Experts Dispute Claim

I love this man. There's an episode of the Vicar of Dibley where Alice (the stupid one) doesn't understand the plot of something. Dawn French tells her that if she doesn't understand something in the plot a wizard did it. This is like that. "Why's your wife injured?" "A ghost did it". This is an approach to crime I call the "religion" approach. Blaming it on something unexplained and supernatural. "Prove it was a ghost." "Prove it wasn't". FUCK YOU. This man is a great example of not giving a fuck. "I'll hit my wife and blame it on a ghost. I do what I want." Stupid cunt. And "parnormal experts"? The paranormal is by definition para-normal, therefore unexpected therefore pretty hard to gain expertise in, surely?


What's funnier than old people? No, not ten old people. Old people and drugs. Voila:

No dear, that wasn't the pot plant I had in mind!

Not a great headline, I agree. It's a terrible pun, which I hate. What's funny is the article, that I command you to read. So basically an elderly couple bought a huge marijuana plant. Funny, right? But what's funnier is their excuse. They "bought it at a car boot sale" and "didn't know what it was". Suuuuuure.... I wonder if the cops would believe it if I said that.



'Rival campaign' spat over wind

A headline should tell you something about the story, so god knows what the good people at the BBC were thinking when they wrote this. It turns out to be a rather dull story about some Tory infighting in a by-election, but there are so many different ways to interpret this headline it's confusing.

Anyone who knows me will know I love animal suffering, which is one of the reasons why this headline is funny:

Chimps and orangutans may experience midlife crises, say scientists

The other reason is that it's almost identical to a headline from satirical website The Onion

Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday

which appeared earlier in the year.


In the age of The Apprentice, Strictly Come Dancing, Total Wipeout, Hole in the Wall and free access to high quality news via the internet it's increasingly hard to defend public service broadcasting, and the BBC do nothing to help themselves. You might think I'm talking about the cover up of child abuse but I'm not. I'm talking about this headline:

Monkey in jacket spotted at Ikea

I love a headline that's weirdly selective about the details it includes. While the story here is essentially that an animal is on the loose, it's the jacket and the fact it's an Ikea that are memorable about this. These details imply that if a naked monkey, or a monkey in a hat, had been spotted in Ikea it wouldn't be newsworthy, or that if a monkey in a jacket was spotted at HMV it wouldn't be newsworthy. Imagine the scene in the BBC newsroom when the story comes in: "A monkey's been spotted in Ikea", "That's not news! Since when did people care about primates buying flatpack furniture?", "No, boss, you don't understand. It was wearing a jacket!", "Jeez, Johnson, why didn't you say?".

What would they have done if it was wearing a mankini?

You know how Daily Mail headlines tell you exactly what happened in the story so you don't need to read it? And you know how they have a talent for finding the most bizarre stories? [see gravy monkey wrench girl] Well another one has come to my attention:

Russian man kills and eats drinking partner after running out of snacks at vodka party... and sells leftovers at market as PORK

I like that the writers obviously thought "I think we need more emphasis on this to grab people's attention. Put "pork" in capitals."

For this next one I have to thank comedian Paul Sinha for tweeting.

Mahesh Bhatt to enter Bigg Boss to offer Sunny 'Jism 2'

This came from Asian Times, and is that rare thing: a headline that requires a key to understand it. Big Boss is Indian Big Brother. Mahesh Bhatt is a Bollywood director. Sunny is an adult movie star. "Jism 2" is a pornographic sequel. Does it make sense now?
As the year draws to a close there's time for just one more piece of journalistic absurdity:

Swedish man gets disability benefits for heavy metal "addiction"

I hope this article is real or I'm going to look like an idiot. You have to read the article on this one because it literally reads like something from the Onion.  "His heavy metal addiction caused him to attend nearly 300 concerts last year that left him unable to hold down a job, and forced to go on welfare."

I'm thinking of starting a charity. "Donate today to help those afflicted with heavy metal addiction. Last year Roger was forced to go to 300 heavy metal concerts. Help us find a cure today." Accompanied by sad images of a completely moshed-out metal fan.

What's more bizarre than a metal head taking everyone for a ride is that he seems to be surrounded by people prepared to humour him, from doctors to his boss. Nice to see that whopping rate of Swedish income tax being put to good use.

So we end, like all good lists, with a jab at Scandanavian socialism. I hope you've enjoyed reading this collection of things as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for next year.

Over and out. x

1 comment:

  1. Isn't seeing three psychologists to classify a heavy metal addiction what Marion Cotillard does in Inception?