On Jan. 16, 2017, an email from The Daily Californian’s wonderful creative director Dani Sundell graced the inboxes of all our copy editors and contained the following stunning, awe-inspiring prose:
“Congratulations, jump heads are dead. Now all you need for jumps is the page number and slug. You’re welcome.”
For those who are fortunate enough never to have had to incorporate the phrase “jump heads” into their vocabularies, a jump head appears in a newspaper when an article jumps from one page to another. In addition to the standard slug and page number – for example, “PROTEST from page 3” – a jump head contains a few lines of large print, all crammed into one column, about the content to appear in the following section of the article.
Jump heads suck. They suck so much that it’s been more than nine months since they’ve been abolished in the Daily Cal and I’ve only just recovered enough to write about how awful they are.
First of all, unlike a normal headline or subhead that appears at the beginning of an article, jump heads can only relay information from the second part of the article. This is limiting in and of itself, but it’s even more of a pain considering that the last few paragraphs of news articles are generally composed mostly of quotations. That means you usually end up settling for something like “Random bystander thinks protests are bad and should stop” as the jump head.
More importantly, I’d be willing to bet that jump heads have never, not one single time in their miserable, asinine existence, actually helped a reader understand an article. If a reader has already gone through the trouble of flipping the page to read the rest of an article, they’re invested enough that knowing whatever trivial fact is in the jump head won’t make a difference. If they didn’t read the first part of the article, they won’t understand the second part regardless of the presence or absence of a jump head.
Now that we’ve established that jump heads are entirely devoid of any positive merit whatsoever, let’s think about their negative attributes, the qualities that cause them to cross the line from “harmless inconvenience” to “destructive menace to society:”
They greedily take up an absurd amount of space on the page, forcing away the important content that the staff works so hard to create.
They suck away at the limited amount of time copy editors have in their shifts, diverting our attention from grammar and headline-writing and, as a result, increasing the number of errors and making headlines more boring.
They clutter up the page, probably making it more difficult for readers to see the more important information: the slug and page number.
I could keep going, but I’m too heated. Besides, it’s time we left the past behind us and looked toward the future, a future in which the Daily Cal and the Berkeley community are free from the burden placed on us by jump heads. In other words, the future we deserve.
And as a copy editor, I look forward to sharing this future with you.