Back in the day, short headlines were good headlines

Now, it seems like we have to pack every inch of cyberspace with SEO-expurgated copy, GIF ads, color-BAM!, and sound-WHUM! Until our brains are glitching out in time with our poor, broke back browsers.

Gone are the days when puns were artfully hidden within the tiny folds of a headline precariously placed between what precious little space was available on the physical page.

I, for one, was never all that good at coming up with headlines. By that I mean, I could spit out 10 or 20 phrases, each with words that might stick to the fly paper, but mostly it’s crapola. The best way to come up with a good headline is to stand around with your friends, teeth unconsciously grazing thumbnails, heads bowed in reverent concentration, and whisper things like, “Can you kern that line a little?” and “Try 18.265 pt., see if that does it.”

And the phrases go flying:
“Should it rhyme?”
“What do you think about alliteration?”
“Putting ‘killer’ in front of ‘baby’ makes it seem like Chucky’s little monster infant is out there, stalking the streets, hungry for blood.”

Oh, and most of your ideas get shot down in a real newsroom. I’m talkin’ about people cursing each other out. Stress at its peak. Deadlines stretching the time between two minutes like a chasm into which you could pitch the entire orchestra that is your soul’s longing to opine about anything you’re most passionate about, while simultaneously it’s like you’d blink and your story’s past due. Finito. “You’re no longer allowed to write for us.”

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Oh, no, I’m fine. I got this.

Flash forward five years and you’re a different person. You’ve changed with the tides, so to speak, ever evolving with the shifting sea of short attention spans and long-winded titles for articles that might not even have anything relatable in the body. It’s all so marketable now and “Is your landing page up to par?” and “How many clicks did I get today” and “I need more views on my video, so I can look like a badass, like I know what I’m doing and the numbers will prove my worth to all of society!”

Phew. It’s exhausting thinking about how fast things change around here, but really, who are we without change?

I was thinking about this on the way to work today, about Decartes’ clean slate and I’m still trying to figure out which side of the debate I lean towards. Part of me is all, “Mhmm, well, Carl Jung made a point there, with his structure of the Hero’s Journey, like, there’s something to this collective conscious-type instinct we have for speech and predilection towards religion…” So, like I said, still straddling the fence, here. Can people change or are we programmed from Day 1?

“I, too, need structure. A little fucking discipline.”
– Jane Burnham, American Beauty

Overall, I think I miss structure. Though there aren’t exactly enough hours in the day to do everything I was to do (five months since my “resolution” article and I still haven’t learned how to play guitar), but I’m still pretty much free to goof off. And no one’s telling me if I’m doing a good job.

School was degrading at times, depressing at times, sometimes passing through me as if I were made of fog, but at least I had some kind of system whereby I was graded on my progress in life! And college was life for a while, something to focus on, something to believe in. Now, as an “adult”, I’m just making it up as I go along.

It’s kind of like my “profession” in general. We’re all just making it up as we go along. We can show off some analytics and say, “Oh, hey. That’s working,” and “Look, this guy came to our site at 1:05 p.m. through a link I sent him in our eblast and then he purchased an item,” and yes, there are percentages and scenarios and A/B testing, but is that what journalism is about? Being the ultimate crowd-pleaser?

This may be part of my quarterly, semi-silent, psychotic rant phase, but there are times when I, too, feel a sense of doubt. Having read Orwell to pieces, I still can’t help but feel like “slavery is freedom” and when we’re put in chains, we at least have something to push back against, we have a need to find creative ways out of our situations. But, what if your life is like this big net of creativity? How can you tell you’re being creative, really, or are you just assigning yourself the label, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am?

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Coulda woulda shoulda

Sometimes I feel I’m being sucked into the tar, and immortalizing these crappy sentences I throw together in some stupendous rage, all because I thought something was interesting (I can’t blog on a consistent basis, because I find random things bloggable, at random times).

But, I mean, is it? Do you like it? Do you? And does it matter much anyway, in the large scheme of things? Part of me feels like I missed a crucial step in becoming a legitimate journalist. I could have traveled more, I could have fought for the rights of the underdog, like I was taught to do through sharing facts and quotes. I could have been another Marie Colvin, who lost her life in defense of pursuing the truth, through any means necessary. Another part of me is sitting pretty, thinking that this life ain’t so bad, and I’m kind of comfy in this chair, though it’s probably making my butt pancake-flat over time.

Who knows. Writing it out kind of makes me feel better, though. I mean, a physical diary just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, when I can satisfy my inner-adolescent’s need to merge tech with words with images and all of the above. Sure, I think I could have thrived in the newspaper world, pre-blogs, but who’s worse off in the end?

This whole thing really just started because I wanted an A+ on my headline test

And now that we’ve got THIS out of the way, there are a few things I’m tossing around up there in my noggin. It’s like playing Hot Potato with blog ideas:

  • On Reading Translated Works
    • Focusing on Truck Stop Rainbows by Iva Pekárková
  • Kombucha Tea
    • Guess the fermenting process is good for your gut. Does the same go for drinking beer, or what?
  • Is it just me or is the 50s-style of singing crooners coming back with reinforced, warbling vigor?
    • See: Tripswitch, others
  • The Future is Unclear–Literally
    • Inspired by a conversation I had with the proprietor at my local liquor store. She observed that her children have bad eyesight, but she sees 20/20. Is there some link here, between focusing on iPads and books (she said her daughter’s a READER!) allowing the muscles that propitiate foresighted-focusing to atrophy from disuse?
  • Nielsen Data
    • The nation is watching itself watch itself watch itself watch itself
  • 10 Ways to Kill Time at the Office While Simultaneously Staying Productive
    • I have some weird ideas for this one, for sure
  • The Cure is coming to town, June 7
  • Lab Girl – a book I want to read

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. I feel like a career hot-air balloon that’s finally descended back down to Earth to gather up its skirts and take a little cat nap.

Maybe this weekend, I’ll take up the keys and drop some knowledge on ya! ‘Til then.

understand
I’m not bald, okay? I shaved my head. Do you understand?”  – Kill Bill

 

Featured image via A Blogger’s Corner

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