Lucy Sisman’s wwword.com piece “Changing Times,” about the variety of headlines used at the NY Times, may not be of earthshaking consequence, but to lovers of print journalism, it’s pretty interesting—especially to me, who have been following the Times at least since my teenage years; I vividly remember many of the front pages shown, and I used to have a yellowing copy of MEN WALK ON MOON (with an apposite palindrome by Voznesensky: а луна канула [and the moon sank]; you can see it, along with an amazing selection of other Russian literary palindromes, here) until I had to clear out my parents’ garage and realized it was not in good enough shape to be worth anything and I didn’t want it cluttering up my garage. Here’s an excerpt:
Throughout both world wars the Times frequently ran long headlines, in bold italic capitals, spread across all six columns and running three lines deep. It hardly needs pointing out that these were times with a lot of dramatic news. By contrast, the headline on the morning of September 12, 2001, was “U.S. ATTACKED,” in capitals with no italics. “Italics give importance and vitality, but this wasn’t a time for sensationalism,” Bodkin says. The trend to shorter headlines started with the moon, he adds. “The line on July 21, 1969, was ‘MEN WALK ON MOON,’ and the first time the Times went beyond a standard banner head.” Compare this brevity to the verbiage of October 15, 1912: “Maniac in Milwaukee Shoots Col. Roosevelt; He Ignores Wound; Speaks An Hour; Goes To Hospital.” That’s practically an entire story in today’s New York Post!