Sometimes we think we’re being clever or creative, when in fact we’re just being lazy.
We who write for a living sometimes think we’ve hit upon some ingenious pop-culture reference for a headline, lead or phrase to weave into our story or blog post. Too often it falls flat.
I know this because I’ve tried this technique, here and elsewhere. Sometimes it works. Other times it’s too clever — the joke is so far inside that I’m the only one who gets it. Many times we’re part of a herd of lazy writers who think in cliches.
Such is the case for about a zillion journalists right now, as we prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“London Calling” — the title song from the Clash’s 1979 album — has become a favorite phrase among headline writers lately. It has quickly become hackneyed.
Here’s a small sample of recent headlines about the upcoming games:
- From the Associated Press: London Calling for Big Olympics
- From the Washington Post: London calling? 40-year-old Janet Evans eyes spot in 800 free final at trials in Olympic bid
- From the Denver Post: London calling for U.S. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin
- From the Charlotte Observer: London calling for 3 with N.C. ties
- And from the Melbourne Weekly, from the land down under (see what I did there?): London calling for big blogger Nathan Strempel
Maybe it’s testament to the continuing influence of that 1979 album that “London Calling” has become such a popular phrase for today’s headline writers. (Many are probably my age and remember the album and song well.) More likely, it’s just a slothful way to try to infuse our headlines with a bit of pop culture zing (from a 33-year-old album).
But the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony is still weeks away. So I’m afraid we’ve got a lot of “London Calling” references ahead of us. You’d think one or two enterprising journalists would take the time to search Google, see that the phrase is overdone, and maybe come up with a fresher pop culture reference.
To those distressed journos who are struggling to come up with something more connected to today’s pop culture landscape, I am happy to offer my assistance. So call me, maybe?
Image: Cover of the Clash’s 1979 album London Calling. Photo by Pennie Smith. The photo depicts Clash bassist Paul Simonon destroying his instrument on the stage of the Palladium in New York City in September 1979. (More info.)