Effective headlines are important…but don’t mislead us, BBC!

Headlines, titles, headings – whatever you want to call them – are a vital part of any news article or feature. And as far as I’m concerned, coming up with a good headline is the most fun part of writing any piece. It’s a chance to flex the old creative muscles and come up with some quality puns that not only convey the content of the article but also draw the reader in. Writers, after all, want people to read their work.

But one thing headlines should never do is mislead. I get more than a little irked when a headline promises one thing, but delivers something completely different…which is one of the many reasons why I give the tabloid press a rather wide berth. I expect more from the BBC though.

Today, as a matter of ritual, I went to the BBC’s homepage and staring back at me was the most unlikely of headlines: Prince qualifies as rescut pilot.

Prince - Rescue Pilot

The Artist Still Known as Prince…Now a Rescue Pilot?

Now, as one of the most talented and commercially successful musicians of all time, producing ten platinum albums and winning countless gongs in the process, I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

And normally, I would’ve questioned this headline immediately. Except, I read on The Telegraph’s website the other week that Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson holds a commerical pilot’s licence.

In fact, with a little further research I discovered that Bruce Dickinson is somewhat of a renaissance man as he’s also a fencer, broadcaster, author, director, screenwriter, actor, marketing director and entrepreneur. According to Wikipedia, at least.

But I digress. Whilst the discovery that not one, but two musical geniuses were also pilots is hardly life-changing news, it was a fact I decided to file away for a rainy day, to bust-out during any future awkward silences I happened to find myself in. Luckily I clicked on the BBC link though.

It transpires that Prince, Prince logo.svg, Symbol, The Artist Formerly Known as Symbol, Brian…whatever you want to call him, hadn’t selflessly secured his wings to help those in peril. The full headline read: Prince William ‘challenge’ as RAF Valley rescue pilot.

Prince William

I’m sure The Sun would’ve come up with something less ambiguous on its homepage, such as “Willy gets his wings”. Or Wills is certified rescue pilot.

This is a really round about way of illustrating the role headlines play in any story. Whoever it was at Auntie Beeb that came up with that headline is forgiven. But in future, please remember that there are pop-stars out there who happen to have royal titles as their Christian names?

Thanks.