Sensational headlines

Question: Why do you run sensationalist headlines? I refer to your 4/16/04 issue. I can't believe the editors don't have more sense of integrity towards a tragic story and the lives affected! -- David Weaver, Spokane

Answer: Sensationalism is in the eye of the beholder. I don't consider that headline overly sensational. A headline should capture the essence of a story in a few words. This headline accomplishes that task. There is a myth that overly sensational headlines sell newspapers. That's not really the case. Headlines that emphasize death and violence tend to blunt sales. And we're occcasionally accused of writing front page headlines in order to sell papers. Well, there is some truth to that. We certainly want the paper to sell. But The Spokesman-Review is primarily a home delivery paper. Our single-copy sales are a smaller proportion of sales compared to similar newspapers in other communities. So our primary goal in writing a good front page headline is writing a headline that tells the story well. -- Steve Smith, editor

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