Has one of your deepest fears ever happened to you?
Jay Leno has been shaming newspapers since 1987 with his Monday night Headlines segment.
That means I have dreaded being featured by Leno for almost a quarter of a century.
In case you’re not familiar with the popular segment of the Tonight Show, scads of readers submit silly headlines, embarrassing typos, tasteless ads and miscellaneous screwups from newspapers all over the world.
My nightmare became reality two Monday nights ago.
Working through the latest batch, Leno came to the next item, quickly assessed it and tapped the side of his head several times with a finger, his expression clearly communicating, “Well, duh.”
Then he unveiled a headline that said, “Rain biggest factor in flooding.”
When I covered a Comox Valley Regional District meeting recently, that seemed like a self-evident conclusion for a consultant to reach.
His report to the CVRD, though, took into account clearcutting, BC Hydro’s dam on the Puntledge, incoming tides at the mouth of the Courtenay River, global warming and other factors.
Yet without the context of the story, the headline doesn’t seem like a real surprise.
Although newspaper headlines are not usually written by the people who write the stories, I had nobody to blame but myself for this one. It was my story, my headline.
Faithful Headlines watchers Pat and Bob Lavoie of Courtenay chuckled when they saw it in the Record, and were thrilled when Leno used it.
After Pat phoned to identify herself as the culprit who ratted on me, she said she wasn’t sure how I would take it. Not well at first, I admitted, although I can see the humour in it now.
Horrified at first, I’m not sure how mortified to be now.
For one thing, there were dumber, more embarrassing things in the same segment.
How about an obviously downscale eatery advertising inside restrooms? Or a car dealer enticing each car buyer with a case of ketchup? Or a classified ad (one of the richest sources of Headlines material) alerting readers to a job opening for a meat cutter/rapper?
To my friends at the other twice-a-week paper in the Valley, which Tweeted about a “really dumb headline,” be careful because you could be next.
Community newspaper people have daunting workloads and regular deadlines. As I am fond of saying, “It is far too easy to make a mistake in a newspaper.”
Or to tick people off without even trying.
For some reason, it seems much easier for people to express displeasure than satisfaction. Such is life, and it’s all part of our playing field.
After four decades in journalism, I take most things in stride.
Except each time I write a headline now, I have this eerie feeling that a 500-pound gorilla with a Jay Leno head is standing behind me, looking over my shoulder as I work.
I think I’ll get somebody else to write the headline on this column.