Kevin Convey on the art of tabloid-headline writing

There’s an interesting profile of former Boston Herald editor Kevin Convey, now editor of the New York Daily News, in the current issue of the Colby College alumni magazine. Written by old Northeastern friend David McKay Wilson, the profile begins with a good anecdote about the Daily News’ collector’s-item front page following the killing of Osama bin Laden: “Rot in Hell!”

Convey’s suggestions — “Dead,” a play on the famous Daily News front page on the execution of convicted killer Ruth Snyder, and “We Got Him” — were deemed not quite right before a copy editor came up with the winner.

“Tabloid headlines are a very demanding form,” Convey told Wilson. “You are putting big words on a page that 530,000 people will buy and 2 million will read. It’s like journalistic haiku.”

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7 thoughts on “Kevin Convey on the art of tabloid-headline writing

  1. Tobe Berkovitz

    Those NY dailies were the best. Famous was the headline, “HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR”. And one from the Roxanne Pulitzer divorce wars, “PULITZER NO PRIZE.” Not sure if that was NY or Boston.

  2. Al Fiantaca

    Garish, sensational headlines are designed to attract readers who are needed to support publications that depend on newsstand sales for circulation revenue. It probably isn’t a coincidence that the publications held in highest esteem, get the majority of their circulation from subscriptions, so they can concentrate their efforts on thoughtful writing and editing. I don’t see anything to be proud of in these headlines or defense of papers that produce them.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      Al: As the head of Bloomingdale’s supposedly once told Rupert Murdoch in explaining why he wouldn’t advertise in the New York Post, “Your readers are our shoplifters.” (Probably not true, but a great story.)

  3. Rick Peterson

    The son of the late Ed Mitton, whose family sold Jordan Marsh to Allied Stores, swore to me that his Dad said that to Hal Clancy of the Herald Traveler back in the day. (Probably at one of those Locke-Ober lunches).

  4. Don Singleton

    C’mon Al, don’t be such a snob. As some wise person once said (paraphrasing, too lazy to check authorship, but I think it was Joseph Patterson, founder of the Daily News), “God must have loved the common people; he made so many of them.” In their heyday, the tabs sold many millions more copies than the broadsheets, and that is one valid measure of value.

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