If online searches are literal, what happens to headlines that involve word play? Copy editors fear they're going the way of the classified ad.
To Matthew Crowley, funny headlines are serious business.
"Come on," Crowley says, tapping his knuckle against the dry-erase board. "What else can we use from this story?"
It's Saturday afternoon in Phoenix, and the American Copy Editors Society's annual conference is drawing to a close. Crowley, a copy editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is conducting a headline-writing workshop inside a classroom at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. The conference has drawn hundreds of copy editors from newspapers around the country.
In his session, "Heads We Win," Crowley is soliciting catchy headlines for a story on Leonard Nimoy's foray into cooking.
"Spice: The Final Frontier," someone offers. "Spice me up, Scotty," says another. "Vulcan Kitchen." And so on.
It's no surprise that the ideas come quickly. After all, these people write clever headlines for a living. But the task has a new sense of urgency. If all online searches are literal, what happens to the headlines that involve a play on words? Are those headlines relegated to the print edition, where headline writers have a captive audience? Indeed, as newspapers embrace search engine optimization, and as young journalists are taught to value Google visibility above all else, many copy editors fear that funny headlines are quickly going the way of the classified ad.