Headline Writers Blast NASA

by Bud Buck

Newspaper headline writers across America, but particularly on the densely populated East Coast, have accused NASA of “trying to ruin us,” with the awkward timing of the latest Mars mission.

“For me, this is an above-the-fold feature from hell,” said Tim Lanyard, chief headline writer for the Baltimore Defunct Doorstep Times. “First thing Monday morning it has to be the top story. Everybody is going to be talking about this event that isn’t going to happen until 1:30 am Eastern Time.”

Lanyard was referring to NASA’s plan to land Curiosity, a car-sized automated rover, on the surface of the planet Mars. The attempted landing is the most complicated and risky extra-planetary mission ever attempted, and the space agency has spent weeks trying to manage expectations while simultaneously building anticipation about the mission.

“They’ve been promoting it like an action movie,” complained Tiffany Charmes, Viral Video Reviewer at the Hartford Au Courant. “Just look at this video,” she said.

“The production values, the dramatic music, the lighting – Whether the thing lands successfully or blows up, people are bound to be entertained,” Charmes whined. “It increases the pressure for us to cover it.”

But accurate coverage of this story is nearly impossible for old-school newspapers, given NASA’s timelines.

“There’s no way we can get anything about Curiosity’s successful landing or horrendous crash into the earliest morning edition. By 1:30 am, we have to have the dang paper printed and headed for the trucks,” said Jonah Perry, V.P. for S.T.P. (Stop The Presses) at the Boston Ink Stained Wretch. Right now, the headline I’m going with is ‘Mars Thing Happens!’ The sub-head is ‘Check Our Website’. It’s killing me to do that, but I’m nearly dead from a bunch of other bad habits anyway.”

Headline writers also ripped NASA for scheduling the showy maneuver so close to the mid-point of the 2012 Olympic Games.

“With a successful mission, the urge to go with something like ‘NASA Sticks Landing’ is going to be irresistible,” said Alice Strug, Manager of Originality at the Charlotte Breakfast-Placemat. “It will make our heads explode to avoid it, but we’ll have to. Conversely, she said, a botched landing will beg for some kind of auto-crash parallel. ‘NASA Car Hits Planet’ is a headline I’d both love and hate to run.”

All of this hand wringing is further evidence that printing current events on dead trees has become awkward and almost unmanageable in today’s constant news cycle. Of course, by the time you read this, up-to-the-minute and accurate accounts of what actually happened will be available online, which some readers will say makes this whole discussion pointless.

Maybe so, but my deadline was last night and I had to having something turned in. I’m not a morning person, so deal with it.

This is Bud Buck, reporting!

Bud Buck is a journalist of questionable merit. It is quite possible he has invented most, or all of his sources and quotes – something not unheard of in today’s (or yesterday’s) news environment. His work on Trail Baboon is featured as a favor to an old friend, and as a direct result of editorial laziness.

You know what really happened. Write your own Curiosity landing headline.

67 thoughts on “Headline Writers Blast NASA”

  1. Good morning. “Mars Rover Makes It In One Piece” or “Curiosity Ready to Roll On Mars”. That’s the best I can do on an early Monday morning. I hope some of you can come up with some that are a little more cleaver.

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  2. In the best tradition of Illinois’ Cook County, vote early and often Baboons!

    My book tells the story of the first big contract my dad got when he created his own toy factory in 1960. That was during a sharp business recession, and it looked like dad’s company was not going to get off the ground. Then Dad invented a thing called the “Plush Puppy.” It was a sort of stuffed dog that lacked a body. You stretched it over a box of facial tissues and pulled tissues out of its spine. Dad was disgusted by this thing. Kimberley Clark (Kleenex) decided to test-market the Plush Puppy to find out if it had consumer appeal. The test consisted of stocking one store with Plush Puppies to see if they would sell. Stupidly, Kimberly Clark chose the Donaldson store in downtown Minneapolis. After a few weeks, Kimberly Clark breathlessly reported to Dad that “Plush Puppies are flying off the shelf” and placed an order for several hundred thousand to be made and sold as a premium for people who sent in a Kleenex label and a few bucks. Actually, Dad already knew about the brisk sales of Plush Puppies. All those Plush Puppies they sold at Donaldsons were bought by people whose last name was Grooms (primarily my parents and my aunt and uncle). So my dad’s business was created with an act of consumer fraud.

    And why not? Vote early and often. It’s the American way.

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    1. This is the first time I can say I’m glad that corporate fraud was successful–your dad’s company made my childhood best friend!

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        1. Sorry for the late reply. It was Henry, the one they made the holiday ornament for last year (I got one of those, too).

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      1. I agree, Crow Girl. If it takes a little fraud to get a big company, like Kimberly Clark, to help a small company get started, I don’t see how we can find anything wrong with that.

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        1. I used to go on fishing fall trips that my father organized to thank businessmen who had been good to his company. I was there as muscle . . . someone to tote canoes and clean fish. One night a Kimberly Clark executive whom none of us could stand dropped a briefcase from the top bunk where he slept. It landed on its latches and opened, spilling out $6,000 in crisp new bills. This was the bribe that this executive had insisted upon if some small business were to get a Kimberly Clark contract. My dad was always too proud to pay bribes, although he was asked to and was punished for not paying. The great Plush Puppy Test Caper was his only venture in crime.

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  3. it really is amazing that the little niche interest groups have access to this story and lets see where it ends up on todays newspaper / evening news. this is a huge deal. landing on mars. cmon world. that or “some athlete wins!!!!!” which one will matter ten years from now? is there a rule as to whether robots can vote in the ice cream contest?

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  4. I loved the quote from the NASA administrator who said this event proves that NASA has not “lost its moxie.” I don’t think that refers to the soft drink. My headline: “NASA Gets Its Mojo Working Again, Drops SUV on Mars In Seven Minutes of Terror

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    1. Thanks, I was hoping someone would be able to work curiouser and curiouser in there somehow. Nicely done.

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  5. I did watch the live streaming online. (NASA TV is just a pipe dream for us…). It was pretty cool. Even wife and son watched which is some sort of testament to the excitement of the event.

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  6. You all are so cleaver this morning! We arrived home yesterday and I took the day off from work to get our home and yard into some semblance of organized. They can land Curiosity on the moon, but my poor daughter in law has to have a pat down at the Fargo airport his morning just because she was wearing a bobby pin of mass destruction in her hair bun, Son and daughter in law are flying to Chicago this morning for n anniversary celebration. Let’s see-my headline would be The Curious Case of the Rover in the Night.

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  7. I’m easily tempted to stray down the OT path, especially on a slow day. Pardon me for thanking Lisa for a book recommendation she made: Abraham Verghese’s first novel, Cutting For Stone. It is a sweeping, fascinating novel of about 660 pages. When you find such a book, it means a week of your life will be happy. I’ll loan out my copy to anyone who wants it, although I’m probably too lazy to mail it out!

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    1. Stray all you want. And glad to hear you like this because it’s on my request list at the library!

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    1. bet you knew that one was going in first thing this morning.
      i get hooked on the john prine follow up songs after the first one. he and iris he and steve goodman him by himself then up pops bonnie raitt then lyle lovett

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