New York Times Neutered Web Headlines

Two standout pieces from Saturday’s New York Times, which for some reason declawed the web versions:

C.J. Chivers, As In Shivers

Another chilling Afghanistan report from the inestimable Chivers.


When Afghans Seek Medical Aid, Tough Choice for U.S.

The dead-tree edition headline, though, was much better:

A Viper’s Strike, a Dying Boy and a Choice for the Marines

Regardless, the story’s lede stayed the same:

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan — Five-year-old Sadiq was not a casualty of war. He was simply unlucky. The boy had opened a sack of grain at his home early on Wednesday morning, and a pit viper coiled inside lashed up and bit him above the lip.

His father, Kashmir, knew his son was sure to die. With no hospital anywhere nearby, he rushed the boy to an American outpost to plead for help. By midafternoon, Sadiq’s breathing was labored. Respiratory failure was not long off.

The events that followed unfolded like a tabletop counterinsurgency exercise at a military school. On one hand, the United States military’s medical capacity, implanted across Afghanistan to care for those wounded in the war, could not be used as primary care for the nation’s 29 million people. On the other hand, would the officer who upheld this policy be willing to watch a 5-year-old die?

As “Maj. Jason S. Davis, a pilot and the commanding officer of Company C, Sixth Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, which provides a detachment of Black Hawks to fly medical missions in central and southern Helmand Province” said:

“We can’t be Afghanistan’s E.M.S.,” he said. “But right now we are.”

And so – Spoiler Alert! – the result was this:

Stung by a venomous snake in a primitive and isolated corner of a war, helped by a persistent father and a chain of people who heard him, Sadiq had reversed Afghanistan’s cruelest math.

Leave it to Chivers to reveal Afghanistan’s cruelest math.

South Korean Couple Video-Games Daughter’s Life Away

As the pull-quote of the story says, “A recreational activity became addicting, with dire consequences.”

Web headline:

South Korea Expands Aid for Internet Addiction

Dead-tree headline:

In South Korea, Parents’ Internet Game-Playing Cost Baby’s Life


SUWON, South Korea — Neither had a job. They were shy and had never dated anyone until they met through an online chat site in 2008. They married, but they knew so little about childbearing that the 25-year-old woman did not know when her baby was due until her water broke.

But in the fantasy world of Internet gaming, they were masters of all they encountered, swashbuckling adventurers exploring mythical lands and slaying monsters. Every evening, the couple, Kim Yun-jeong and her husband, Kim Jae-beom, 41, left their one-room apartment for an all-night Internet cafe where they role-played, often until dawn. Each one raised a virtual daughter, who followed them everywhere, and was fed, dressed and cuddled — all with a few clicks of the mouse.

On the morning of Sept. 24 last year, they returned home after a 12-hour game session to find their actual daughter, a 3-month-old named Sa-rang — love in Korean — dead, shriveled with malnutrition.


So why does the Times make it less so on the web?

UPDATE: Smart comment by Ted M, and a relevant link from the encyclopedic Dan Kennedy of Media Nation.

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2 Responses to New York Times Neutered Web Headlines

  1. Ted M. says:

    Two possibilities:

    1. If the story was published online before the headline writers at the Times dead tree desk got a hold of it, you might have someone less creative writing the first version.

    2. (And more likely…) SEO. It’s all about the keywords…

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