Paul Whittaker

Headline Journalism

The Daily Telegraph

Cardinal spin, The Grapes of Bof, Palmersnorus

A strong headline not only sums up a complex story, it also attracts readers with its wit. The challenge in a tabloid paper is to achieve all this in just one or two words.

When Cardinal George Pell appeared before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, he set out his own version of events surrounding the controversial former altar boy John Ellis. Playing on the doctrine of “cardinal sin”, Paul Whittaker’s headline “Cardinal spin” drew the readers in, while conveying the ambiguities of the cardinal’s statements.

When NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was found out at the Independent Commission Against Corruption for not declaring a $3000 bottle of Grange, prompting Paul Whittaker to reference John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath as well as O’Farrell’s nickname, BOF. The headline became an instant classic and went viral on social media.

The unpredictable Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, drifted off to sleep during Question Time while Treasurer Joe Hockey was discussing his first Budget. Whittaker rapped out an inspired one-worder, playing on Mr Palmer’s infamous dinosaur replica at his Coolum resort, while also reflecting the politician’s role as the slumbering giant of federal politics.

cardinal spingapes


Judges comment’s: “Palmersnorus”, in particular, is a perfect example of the dark art of tabloid headline writing in which one word can say so very, very much. Accompanying a photograph of Mr Palmer asleep during question time in the House of Reps, it played effortlessly on Mr Palmer’s collection of replica dinosaurs and role in the Senate.”

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