Friday, September 01, 2006

Snakes on a Campus

We talked about this in feature writing, about how working in the features section of a newspaper or in the Lifestyle section of a magazine is a kind of "Pirates of the Caribbean" thing. Much of the fun comes from the fact that, as opposed to the sour folk down at the other end of the room, a big chunk of feature writing is all about fun.

Conceiving of it. Inducing it. Simulating it. Wrapping the bolus of death and disaster up in a sugar shell so that it goes down easy.

One of the techniques of gaffing an audience is the creation of a topical headline that draws on something that is inherently light and amusing in the first place. And one way to do that is through back formation: You imagine a head and then brainstorm the story that might sit under it.

Thus: Snakes on a Campus.

Who would these snakes be? Professors who are not just bad but somehow treacherous, too? All those heartbreakers of either sex who leave you sitting by the phone? But no one sits by a phone today. The phone sits by them, or rides along.

But you get the idea. The students were shocked. Perhaps, they thought their professor was being something of a reptile himself, just a little too cold-blooded, you know?

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