If papers like the New York Times essentially have one headline for their print version and another for the web, is this a step towards the disentanglement of print writing and online writing? And if so, is this good or bad?
"Week in Review," April 9, 2006:
Some news sites offer two headlines. One headline, often on the first Web page, is clever, meant to attract human readers. Then, one click to a second Web page, a more quotidian, factual headline appears with the article itself. The popular BBC News Web site does this routinely on longer articles...
In the print version of The New York Times, an article last Tuesday on Florida beating U.C.L.A. for the men's college basketball championship carried a longish headline, with allusions to sports history: "It's Chemistry Over Pedigree as Gators Roll to First Title." On the Times Web site, whose staff has undergone some search-engine optimization training, the headline of the article was, "Gators Cap Run With First Title."
In journalism, as in other fields, the tradition of today was once an innovation. The so-called inverted pyramid structure of a news article—placing the most important information at the top—was shaped in part by a new technology of the 19th century, the telegraph, the Internet of its day. Putting words on telegraph wires was costly, so reporters made sure the most significant points were made at the start.
Yet it wasn't all technological determinism by any means. The inverted pyramid style of journalism, according to Mr. Schudson, became standard practice only in 1900, four decades or more after telegraph networks came into use. It awaited the rise of journalists as "an avowedly independent, self-conscious, professionalizing group," confident of their judgments about what information was most important, he said.
The new technology shaped practice, but people determined how the technology was used—and it took a while. Something similar is the likely path of the Internet.
The title for the article, suitably, was wonderful: "This Boring Headline is Written for Google."