As you know by now, The Plank is back from a two-year hiatus. To mark the occasion, I’d like to set the record straight about some ancient New Republic history. The infamous “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” a headline TNR brought to prominence, is not getting its fair shake. First, some background. Every so often, a savvy journalist introduces an item about Canada with the headline ‘Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” The joke dates back to 1986, when then-TNR editor Mike Kinsley spotted the headline in the New York Times and defied readers to find one that was more boring.
In June 1985, Flora Lewis wrote in the New York Times that then-President Ronald Reagan said he had pounded the walls in frustration over the hostage crisis in Beirut. Given what we know about Reagan, it's not hard to believe that he would resort to such measures to express his rage. Now try to imagine Barack Obama similarly venting his frustration at the Republicans taking his agenda hostage for political gain. Hard to visualize, isn't it? That's no accident.
Readers of TNR have responded generously to our request for examples of boring headlines. The entire staff is comatose with appreciation. In the late 1920s the British writer Claud Cockburn won a contest among editors at the Times of London to see who could get the most boring headline into the paper.