For decades newspapers have employed journalists whose sole purpose was to write a beautiful headline. But in an increasingly online world, Education Editor Melanie Coulson says what you write is meaningless if it isn’t getting an audience. 

By Melanie Coulson, Education Editor

What you write is meaningless if it isn’t getting an audience.

In the multimedia journalism course I teach at Carleton’s journalism school, and in the Ottawa Citizen newsroom where I work my "day job," I’m often speaking about headlines and SEO.

We started asking reporters in our newsroom to start writing headlines about two years ago. At first, they were nervous. For decades newspapers have employed journalists whose sole purpose was to write a beautiful headline.

I tell students to think about crafting a headline that will attract search engine robots. Yes, I said robots. (I tell students to visualize these bots like the spiders that creep around in Minority Report, pulling open eyelids to scan and confirm identities.


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I came across this great presentation from Upworthy "How to make that one thing go viral" and had to add it to this blog.

I gave our reporters and my Carleton students this handout, to help them with their headlines.  The examples on this handout are dated, but the same rules apply. I’ve uploaded it to Scribd, and posted it here:

This article was originally published on Melanie Coulson's website Journomel.


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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.