#342

The Times, February 2, 2018

I believe this is evidence of the problem facing most newspapers, namely that their staffs tend to be (cheap) young people who lack background knowledge of culture, history and much else, but their readership is mainly quite a bit older. Thus, most Times readers will know about the death of  Natalie Wood, but it looks to me as if the headline was written by someone who had never heard of her. She was, after all, a star in her own right, not just a ‘film star’s wife’, and her death has been a mystery ever since it happened. This heading could have been written any day in the intervening 35 years. The i newspaper showed how it should be done:

i newspaper, February 2, 2018

The names of Wagner and Wood are so well known to the readers that they must appear in the heading. The use of ‘in the frame’ is good, with its double reference to films and suspicion.

Message from the Lost Cause Department: When I started subbing, there was a range of ages on the table from beginners to those who were on the brink of retirement, and a range of backgrounds from tea boy upwards. This structure has been demolished and now most staff are comparatively recent graduates, with inevitably limited experience of the world. Donald Rumsfeld was mocked when he pointed out that there are ‘known unknowns’ (things you know you don’t know) and ‘unknown unknowns’ (things you don’t realise you don’t know), but he was right, and the latter are the ones that cause the trouble. Of course a young person won’t know everything, and that is the advantage of having older people around to guide and help. But they are more expensive, and that is all that seems to matter.

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