One thing that is very hard to do, for those of us in my business, is to write a headline to go with a story. Personally, there are times I’ve sat and wondered what the headline should say for a longer time than it took to write the story in the first place. A story’s headline is not exactly a “title” for a story. The purpose of a headline is to get you, the reader, to actually read the story. Thus, the headline should have words that catch your eye. Words like “free” or sadly, “dead” and “danger,” will catch your eye. I know they catch mine.

I once lived near a town in Indiana where the editor seemed to think that the headline was more important than the actual story. Headlines in that paper instead of 6-8 words long would be sometimes 6-8 sentences long. No one ever needed to read the story, since all the pertinent information was in the headline.

I’ve probably written my share of loser headlines during my career. I’ll freely admit that. It’s tough to write eight words that tell somewhat what a story is about and entice potential readers to break down and spend a minute or two educating themselves. However, I can tell you that it’s easy for a headline to go bad, to be misunderstood, to confuse.

Jay Leno had a running comedy bit using some strange headlines that appear in newspapers all over the globe. I like to share such headlines as I do my daily perusal of the information superhighway. Some of these are much more entertaining than the story itself. Sometimes, a double meaning will really cause an embarrassing misunderstanding. Other times, the story is just so weird that the headline, by necessity, is weird too.

I’ll start by telling you my personal favorite. I saw this headline in person, in a newspaper that is not owned by any company I’ve ever worked for. The headline read, “Death ruled a fatality.” Of course death and fatality are synonyms, so every fatality is a death. I think they mean that it was not an accident, but that word would be “homicide.” Whatever they meant, what they wrote was funny. Especially for a story about death.

My other favorite was online. And after a day or so, someone finally caught on to the double meaning. The story was about a woman with the last name of Hooker and the award she was given. The headline read, “Hooker named Lay Person of the Year.”

It’s amazing how often that can happen. You unwillingly write something quite funny. It happens. But more often than not, the story is just too weird for the headline not to be weird. Like this week. A lot of weird stuff made the headlines online this week. I’ll share a few I ran across this week:

• Florida grandmother demands $1,000 for ‘pain and suffering’ after bad haircut

• Florida man alledgedly takes woman on date so friend can steal her purse

• Passengers finish beer of man who fell off train

• Much mirth as Sweden ‘mourns’ its oldest eel

• Man drags stolen safe behind car, arrested after passing officer

• Australian hospital accidentally declares 200 patients dead

• Oregon police deal with report of chicken crossing the road

You see, sometimes headlines write themselves because the facts are just weird, stupid, odd, or ridiculous. Pain and suffering for a bad haircut, mourning a dying eel, chickens crossing the road — these will give you an interesting headline no matter how badly.

Still there are other times when a headline writer (yes, certain rich newspapers have people who only write headlines.) (They also have girls in grass skirts who fan you with large fans when the air conditioner breaks down. At least that’s what I’ve heard.) will not pay enough attention to what the headline really says, and you end up with a story with the headline: “Federal agents raid gun shop, find weapons” or “Marijuana issue sent to joint committee” or “17 remain dead in morgue shooting spree” or “Death ruled a fatality.”

Sometimes, it’s just easier to read the story.