June 15, 2011
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All in the Heads of Newseum’s Facebook Fans

WASHINGTON — Newspapers may be considered a dying breed, but if the Newseum’s weekly contest on Facebook is any indication, the time-tested craft of headline writing is alive and well and flourishing.

Every Tuesday at noon EDT, fans are asked to write a headline on the topic of the day. The prize: Two free tickets to the Newseum. Some fans pen multiple entries. The winner is announced at 5 p.m.

The contest began in July 2010. Since then, fans from around the country have written 2,300 headlines. There have been 52 contest winners; seven have won more than once. The headlines range from serious to quirky and clever and could easily be printed daily in major news publications.  

Newseum judges look for accuracy and originality. When good headlines are similar, the advantage goes to the earliest submission.

“It’s a fun contest that bridges old and new media, and it clearly drives traffic to our Facebook page,” said Harland Harris, the Newseum’s director of multimedia and systems. “I’m just glad that I’m not eligible to play — the competition is tough.”

Patrick Jean, a two-time prize recipient, wrote a headline in August 2010 that didn’t win but was so good, it was voted staff favorite. His headline, “Thomas’ Seat? There’s an AP for That,” was based on veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas losing her coveted seat in the White House press corps to The Associated Press.

Jean’s recent winner, “Rolling Blunder,” was about former governor Sarah Palin’s participation in Rolling Thunder’s annual motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C.

In response to the feud in 2010 between NPR and its former political commentator Juan Williams, who now has a lucrative expanded role at Fox News, Kathleen Horrigan Butler penned the headline that was also voted by other contestants as the best of the year: “NPR vs. Fox: What are the Odds? Two Million to Juan.”

Butler won again this month for the headline, “Silly Rabbi, Tips are for Kids!” based on a proposed ban in California on circumcisions for minors.

Other notable winners:

  • “Yes, We Cannabis,” on California’s initiative to legalize marijuana.
  • “Buy a Standard, Get an Automatic,” on an auto dealer’s promotion to give away AK-47s with the purchase of a used truck.
  • “The Hammer Gets Nailed,” on former Rep. Tom DeLay’s prison term.
  • “Apple Losing its Core?” on Apple CEO Steve Jobs taking medical leave.
  • “Swing and a Myth,” on home-run king Barry Bond’s perjury trial.

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