Newspaper Headlines Might Need A Comma

I have read newspapers since my boyhood days in Hancock, Wisconsin where the first treasure to be found each day was the comic strip Buz Sawyer.

Over the years, I have noted the changes to papers regarding the size, font, and even the placement of color photos on the front page. Newspaper readers, I have found, take their papers seriously and comment on various aspects of the published pages.

As with, in my estimation, the need for commas in some headlines.

The headline above, from the September 26, 2021 edition of The Wisconsin State Journal, screams out for the use of commas.

While commas are not often used in newspaper headlines, they do at times appear. But then when they really do need to be placed in the headline, but are omitted, it makes for an awkward outcome. How much better the following headline looks, and reads with commas.

4th voter, out of 3 million, charged with fraud

I like newspapers that run a tighter editing shop than how the State Journal has, more recently, allowed for stories to be written or as in this case, headlines to be constructed. Economic downturns in the profession have hit everywhere, and so I am mindful of why staff reductions are reflected on the pages.

I also very much grasp the fact that almost no one cares anymore about such fussiness but such things do matter. Newspapers still should set a standard of grammar and punctuation that is instructive to the rest of us.

I would trust that idea never becomes ‘old-fashioned’.

And so it goes.

1940’s Music Makes Impact, Dan Thomson Pens Perfectly-Toned Letter

Among the letters to the editors in the Sunday newspapers, the following one hit a note on the Madison isthmus. It allowed for a nice memory to be recalled.

Dan Thomson wrote a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal about how the SiriusXM 40’s station has produced a calm reassurance for the world in which we live.

James and I often listen to 40s Junction in our car as we tool about the city. We have a convertible and so at times, we get a look from a fellow driver who might smile and lift fingers for a snapping action as In The Mood or Pennsylvania 6-5000 fills the air.

I do think Thomson hit the mark when writing of that era “So when they played music, it was to celebrate.”

At night, when in my radio broadcasting days, I aired the Big Band Show on WDOR which featured the likes of Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Cliff Edwards.  The music was spiced and filled with the verve that demands never be stopped from playing out over the airwaves.  I was delighted, therefore, when first encountering SiriusXM about 12 years ago.

I can assure my readers the studio speakers at the radio station were ramped up and the ‘local neighborhood disc jockey’ was bopping about the station as the Dorsey Brothers were spinning on the turntable.  By that time of night, I was working the station solo, and so the music went louder in proportion to the fewer people in the building. A special friend might come to the station about that time and wait until ‘the broadcast day’ was over with the playing of the National Anthem, and we would head out for breakfast at a local diner.  Good memories.

So with that intro…here are the thoughts of Madison’s Dan Thomson.

I got tired of news and contemporary music on the car radio, so on a whim I changed channels to music from the 1940s. It worked for me. That swing beat and those horns make me feel good.

People from the ’40s were super-positive. I caught this in a three-piece sequence the other day. First was, “My Melancholy Baby” — a total misnomer and not melancholy. Second was, “Zippity-do-da, Zippity-day.” The last was “Route 66.” 

But those folks in the 1940s ignored some other social issues. The playlist includes Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole along with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. But you would likely search in vain for Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” about lynchings in the South. 

After surviving the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and coming together to fight and win World War II, Americans had the “We’re all in this together” attitude. So when they played music, it was to celebrate. We don’t feel anything to celebrate now because we clearly are not in this together.

From COVID to wildfires, to stomping out a return to poverty, we are not all in this together. That’s why I listen to music which is 70 to 80 years old.

Dan Thomson, Madison

Thanks, Dan!