Taiwan Newspaper Silliness Watch!
Taiwan boasts two English-language dailies, the well-funded China Post and its poorer country cousin, the China News. While neither paper appears to be a CIA-funded publication (after all, the Cold War is over), both papers do seem to have competing ideologies: The China Post appears to support the ideas and policies of the KMT ruling party (as well as the Vatican Church ruling religion -- photos of the Pope and Mother Teresa and Sister Normila appear regulary on the front and inside pages, perhaps because the Holy C recognizes Taiwan on the diplomatic front?), while the more boisterous and idiosyncratic China News appears to be favor the DPP opposition party and its policy-makers. In addition, the China News is very much agnostic and free-thinking and employs a staff of rowdy foreigners from South Africa, the USA and other English-speaking countries that while less well-paid than their counterparts at the China Post, nevertheless write better, think better and report better than their rich cousins across town. For the record, let us refer to the China News as the China News and the China Post as the O.P. (the Other Paper.) The weird thing about both papers is that they often run half-page adverts on their front pages, which means a smaller news hole for readers and a shockingly schlockingly unprofessional front page. I mean, did you ever hear of the Boston Globe or the New York Times or the LA Times running halfpage adverts on their front pages? No, a thousand times no! But it is a tradition in ye olde Tawainville for major daily newpapaers, Chinese as well as English, to plaster half-page ads for Rolex and various upscale hostels on their front pages. An affront to the reader, but hey, this is Taiwan, and there's no use complaining. Now while the China Post bills itself as "Taiwan's leading English language newspaper," the China News, a bit more left of center and independent, says it has "more quality, more reliability and more integrity" (sic). The truth of the matter is that both papers often indulge in mindless, silly headline writing, both for major news stories and news briefs (not to mention the occasional odd stand-alone photo). This website was created to call attenion to the above-mentioned silliness, which sometimes borders on the crude and the reckless, not to mention the immature and the sophomoric -- but then again, remember, this is Taiwan -- in hopes that those editors responsible for such dribble (sic) will reform themselves and hire dependable, mature copyeditors who know how to write professional reader-friendly headlines and photo captions. If often appears that Taiwan's current crop of copyeditors (if indeed either paper even employs such people) write only for their own amusement and jollification, as will be readily seen below. Read on, Dear Readers, and remember, with the Internet, we can make the world a better place (since editors at both papers refuse to acknowledge our constructive criticisms and ignore our letters to the editor on such topics as style, substance, headlines and photo captions. Enjoy. And by all means, if you come across a real no-no in either the China News or the O.P., send in the item to this website at the following email adddress: firstname.lastname@example.org (Even better, write a letter to the paper itself and let them know what you think.) Enough said? Enuf said.
"Brusied celebrity Elizabeth Taylor hopes to ..."
The China Post has some real floozies as headline writers, coming up with real winners like this one the other day about Elizabeth Taylor. The AP story was about how Taylor was due to be released from the hospital soon after a fall at home on her birthday, and the headline writer thought real hard and then wrote: BRUISED CELEBRITY ELIZABETH TAYLOR HOPES TO LEAVE HOSPITAL SOON. Ah, so that's it; Ms Taylor is a celebrity -- as if we didn't know! Will this headline writer deck out a story about Elton John with a headline like this: POPULAR CELEBRITY ELTON JOHN RECEIVES PRIZE? I mean, let's cut out this "celebrity" bit, huh? We know this already, Ms. Headline Writer of the O.P. (If the O.P. has one cardinal sin that it keeps committing over and over again, like every day, it's over-writing. Headlines get over-written, stories get over-written, leads get over-written, even photo captions get over-written. The result is a dull, sophomoric, crude newspaper that would disgrace any journalism professor anywhere. But hey, the O.P. is printed on nice quality paper, offers readers nice quality color photos and bundles up a bunch of international wire stories that make the cost of the rag worthwhile. But is IS irritating to read such silly headlines, like the one about Ms Taylor, that certain celebrity. Wondering how the China News stacks up against the O.P? Read below...
China News: Grow Up!
While the China News is by far the best expat newspaper in Taiwan, it continues to suffer from sloppy, immature and crude headline writing. While stories are meaty and well-reported, copyeditors often grace stories with silly headlines that detract from the paper's professionalism and distract the reader. Read the Bangkok Post, the Hong Kong Standard, the Japan Times and other Asian expat newspapers and you will find excellent headline writing and photo captions. But the China News, for reasons that esecape this website, often resorts to immature, silly and stupid headlines that lessen the paper's impact. For example (and there are MANY examples, every day, day after day, without let-up) the China News will offer readers a frontpage teaser headline in its Short Takes (sic) column about some troubles with Indonesian soldiers and riots, with the teaser reading STOP OR I'LL SHOOT. As every newsman or newswoman knows, it's a no-no to write first-person headlines except in a high school newspaper run by sophomores. There, it's oaky; in the China News, it's not okay. There's more: a recent teaser headline on the front page about Taiwan Minister of Interior Huang Chu-wen saying he'll improve the social order in 6 months or quite reads WANNA BET? This is an editorial judgment and does not belong in a headline. This copy editor has sinned and sinner bad. There's more. A news brief about a Taipei woman who was fined for calling a man a giolo was headlined WATCH YOUR MOUTH, LADY. Oh, this is too much! Copyeditors have no place writing such editorial-style headlines. In an editorial on the editorial page, yes, fire away, but not on news pages! Is anyone actually editing the China News or are staff writers just having fun amusing themselves with witty puns and first-person heads? There's more: a news brief about charges being dropped against Mayor Chen Shui-bian regarding a very serious tug-of-war incident in which two participants lost their arms in a tragic accident is headlined MAYOR WINS TUG-OF-WAR. This is not just sophomoric and rude; it is sick! Okay in Mad magazine, but not okay in the China News, if it really seeks an international audience and a legitimate place in Taiwan's newspaper wars. There's more: when a Taiwan artist was awarded a knight of the arts honor from France, the headline over the news brief read GOOD KNIGHT FOR ABSTRACT PAINTER. This headline has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the headline writer's belief that being witty is the sign of a good editor. No, no, no. Being witty at the right time is good;being witty at the wrong time and for the wrong story and with a stupid pun that doesn't really makes sense is bad. More: a moving wire story about a Japanese ski jumper who won a gold medal in the Olympics and cried tears of joy when talking to an interviewer and mentioned how his children had said to him "Do your best Daddy" before the event is headlined TEARS FOR DADDY. This headline makes fun of the subject, a real no-no in journalism. More and more of this sophomoric stuff every day. Either the China News doesn't care about its readers (a real possibility) or its management doesn't know about these serious headline goofs and doesn't care. It's time for headline writers at the China News, arguably the best little paper in Asia, to get on the ball and start writing more professional and reader-friendly headlines. This website certainly hopes the editor in chief of the CN is aware of these facts and plasn to do something to make his paper an even better paper. Headlines should not talk down to readers, headlines should not make senseless puns, headlines should not belittle subjects in the story and headlines should not be written in the first-person. On the editorial page, yes; on the news pages, no. Reform thyself, dear little China News or know that thy days are numbered (in printers' ink). The O.P. may be a shade tacky and loose, but at least it doesn't stoop to belittling story subjects or readers.