One very strange-- and occasionally distressing-- tradition at newspapers is that editors write the headlines even for opinion pieces written by other people. In other words, and those who have written op-eds know, you submit your op-ed, and the editors give it some weird headline of their own choosing, instead of the one you thought would be good. Sometimes this works out very well -- the editors think of something pithy and clever you'd never have thought of-- but other times they come up with something that's completely off base, or even actively misleading in terms of its (non)relation to what you wrote. (
I felt that way about my most recent LAT column, which was about the implications of the Hamdan decision for potential liability under the War Crimes Act. This time, the headline ended up being Did Bush Commit War Crimes?, which was frustrating, since the piece was intended as sober analysis, and never suggested that Bush himself commited war crimes or could be prosecuted for the same-- but the headline was, well, rather provocative, and so far about fifty people have sent me enraged emails.)
I wonder about the origin of separating the writing of headlines from the writing of articles-- especially opinion pieces. Is it just an odd tradition? Or is there some logic behind it?