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    An attention ‘grabber’

    On a recent flight, a famous media expert occupied the seat next to mine.

    “I’m in the media business myself,” I volunteered. “Chief Medical Editor of Ophthalmology Times. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.”

    “No,” she replied.

    “How do I ensure that all ophthalmologists read my columns?” I asked. “They are extremely busy caring for their patients and learning to use electronic medical records, plus [are] bombarded with written materials about new drugs and devices, clinical trials, practice management, etc.”

    She glanced though my copy of Ophthalmology Times.

    “You need headlines that are ‘grabbers,’” she advised. When asked to define “grabber” she offered the following examples:

    • Do you remember when that congressman, whose name rhymes with “cleaner,” was caught texting photos of his genitalia to a 21-year-old college student? When first he denied everything and vowed to stay in Congress, the New York Post headline was: “Weiner: I’ll Stick it Out.”

    • When the Speaker of the House declined to comment on the controversy, CNSNews.com reported: “Boehner Won’t Bite on Weiner.”

    • When the congressman failed to show up at parades held by his constituents, the front page of the New York Post proclaimed: “Hide the Weiner.”

    • When the congressman stated that he wasn’t certain whether or not the tweeted photos were his, the front page of The Daily showed the man with the headline: “It Could Be My Weiner,” The Daily News proclaimed “Weiner’s Pickle,” and Jon Stewart led with “The Big Wang Theory.”

    • When the congressman admitted to ownership of the imaged body parts in question, The Huffington Post led with “Weiner Lets it All Hang Out” and ABC News declared him “The Dork Knight.”

    • When the president criticized the junior politician (“If it was me, I would resign”), the New York Post’s front page proclaimed: “Obama Beats Weiner.”

    • When he did resign, MetroWeekend New York’s front page offered, “He couldn’t keep it up.” Reporting on the danger of inadvertently distributing personal photos, the Kansas City Star headlined: “The lesson of Weiner’s schnitzel: Delete, delete, delete.”

    • This year, when rumors first began about the disgraced politician “thrusting himself” back into politics and the New York mayoral race, the Drudge Report broke the story with “Will Weiner Rise Again?” and the New York Post’s front page offered: “Weiner’s Second Coming” and “Erect me Mr. Mayor.”

    • When the governor of New York commented unfavorably on Weiner’s candidacy, saying it would be “shame on us” if he was elected, The Post led with: “Gov takes stiff poke at Weiner” and “Governor Cuomo took a bite out of Anthony Weiner.”

    “So compare these two possible headlines: ‘Congressman Won’t Resign’ versus ‘Weiner: I’ll Stick it Out.’ Now do you see what I mean by ‘grabber’?” she asked.

    All things being relative

    “I’m not sure those ‘grabbers’ will work with ophthalmologists,” I responded. “We are a serious lot. Most were at or near the top of their class in high school, college, and medical school. We don’t spend our time making jokes, but having intelligent discussions about meaningful use, phototransduction, and bevacizumab.”

    “Beva what?” she asked.

    “Never mind,” I replied.

    “Well, if what you say is true about them being such intellectuals,” she told me, “you’ll need a different kind of headline.”

     


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    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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