JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 18, 2011
I would like to belatedly protest to outcome of TNR's "Boring Headline Contest" on Twitter. the Winning entry, "Chemist Doubts Hair-Straightener With Formaldehyde-Free Formula," is surely quite boring. But the best entry was surely this:
Belgian King Extends Term Of Coalition Mediator
Now, I will disclose that this entry was submitted by my brother. But I believe it hews perfectly to the original spirit of the contest. Let me quote from Michael Kinsley's iconic column creating the concept:
My favorite genre of boring headline is the one gravely informing you that a development you weren't aware of and don't care about has reversed itself, ideally in some distant part of the globe. "Nepal Premier Won't Resign" is a goldenoldie example, but there was a masterpiece in the Times as recently as April 26: "Chill Falls on Warming Relations Between Australia and Indonesia." Closer to home but almost as choice was "University of Rochester Decides to Keep Name" (Times, April 18). A close cousin of the reversed-insignificantdevelopment headline is the nothinghappened- at-all headline. An outstanding recent example in that category was "Dramatic Changes Fail to Materialize on Hill" (Washington Post, April 23). Then there's the nothing-is-going-to-happen headline. The judges found "Surprises Unlikely in Indiana" (Chicago Tribune, April 29) almost poignant.
The Belgian story contains two of these elements: It reports that a development you were unaware of has not changed at all. The Belgian coalition mediator is staying in place. Phew!
Kinsley also wrote, "references to Canada are not essential to a boring headline. Merely helpful." Belgium may not technically be Canada, but it is Canada in spirit. Nothing interesting ever happens in Belgium save the occasional German military invasion, and even that is merely a temporary way station in the process of arriving somewhere more interesting.
One day I aspire to have enough sway over this blog to assert nepotistic influence.