ABC’s Subheds Bludgeon With Redundancy

Here's a suggestion for the network's Web team: Scrap 'em.

Who’s writing the subheds at Trolling the news site today, I came across the lively headline “Speculation Swirls About Chrysler’s Fate.” A subhed nudged the story further: “Speculation Swirls About Chrysler’s Fate, Driving Stock Ever Higher.” The AP filed stories carrying each of those headlines Monday, but ABC managed to use both at once.

Here’s a suggestion for the network’s Web team: Scrap the subheds.

To see why, let’s quickly review the “Top Headlines” on ABC’s homepage at 12:45 this afternoon.

“CIA Leak Case Turned Over to Jury,” said the first headline, accompanied by the subhed “Jury Deliberations Begin in Perjury and Obstruction Trial of I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.” As the AP’s lede helpfully explained, “Jurors began deliberating Wednesday in the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House aide I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.” (Note that five of the seven “Top Headlines” in question corresponded to AP stories.)

“Rescued Hikers Talk About How They Survived Mount Hood: Velvet the Dog Helped Keep Them Warm” was not bad, but then came “U.N. Readies Report on Iran Nuke Program: U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Prepares Report That Could Trigger Further U.N. Sanctions.” As the AP expounded, “The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday put finishing touches on a report expected to confirm that Iran continues uranium enrichment activities, a finding that could trigger harsher U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran.”

Next was “Suicide Blast Kills 13 in Al-Sadr’s Area: Suicide Blast Kills 13 in Shiite Holy City of Najaf, Where Muqtada Al-Sadr Holds Sway.” Again, the AP drew things out: “A suicide car bomber struck a police checkpoint Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing at 13 people in the spiritual heartland of the militia factions led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.”

The copy editing fun continued with “More Hospital Time for Tiny Baby: Florida Doctors to Keep Preemie in Hospital a Little Longer, Delaying Tuesday Release.” ABC’s site has trouble carrying dashes, so the AP breathlessly explained, “A girl born after just under 22 weeks in the womb among the shortest gestation periods known for a live birth will remain in a hospital a few extra days as a precaution, officials said Tuesday.”

Finally, there was a headline that read “40 Immigrants Found in Trailer in Texas.” The subhed? “40 Immigrants Found in Tractor Trailer in Texas; No Injuries Reported.” The AP added: “Forty Brazilian immigrants were found loaded inside a stifling tractor-trailer about 75 miles north of the Mexican border, authorities said. No injuries were reported.”


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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.