Back on June 19, the headline on a CBC online news story caught my attention.
CBC was first to break the tragic and heartbreaking story of Amelia Engram, the little girl who was dying of cancer, and her parents wish for the three to be buried together.
It was this headline that gave me pause:
A grave concern: Family with dying daughter loses cemetery appeal
It was the grave concern that caused me discomfort. However, I moved on and didnt think about it again until I saw a letter to the editor in todays Telegram criticizing that headline.
Heres a big chunk of the letter, from Aubrey Smith of Grand Falls-Windsor:
I don't know who wrote this macabre headline at CBC, but whoever wrote it needs to be fired or retrained. If the grave pun was intentional (which I really doubt), I'd fire the writer. If subconscious and unintended, I'd forgive that person with the stipulation that the writer's future work be carefully checked before publication. Puns have their place, but this obviously was not such a place for a pun, even unintentionally. CBC has always had very high standards. Let's preserve that distinction.
I agree with Smiths point of view, though I dont think anyone should be fired over this.
However, a headline-writing course might not go astray.
As a rule, cutesy devices like puns and alliteration have no place in the headline of a tragic news story. Their presence generally indicates that the story material is lighter fare, or is dull and in need of a lift.
Or am I old school on this?
How do other editors and journalists feel about it? Your comments are welcome.