The Central Somerset Gazette’s “Village People Upset at YMCA Plans” headline went viral after it was recently tweeted by Mark Chapman. (“Take a bow,” he told the paper.)
Who wrote the hed? I asked Gazette editor Bede MacGowan.
“It was from 2012 by our talented former chief sub Tim Lethaby,” he replied. “He is now the editor of the Blackmore Vale Magazine in Dorset.” (The date of publication isn’t visible on the front page that was tweeted by Chapman; I wrongly assumed it was recent.)
Lethaby tells Romenesko readers that “it is fairly nuts how this headline has suddenly gone viral.”
In 2012, there wasn’t much reaction to it. “It got a few Facebook shares at the time but nothing much,” says the Dorset editor. “I even entered it into a few Front Page of the Year competitions but didn’t even make it as a finalist.”
But it eventually got notice in the UK when the comedy site The Poke tweeted it as “headline of the year.” Comedian David Schneider — he’s “in loads of British comedy shows” – posted it on Facebook and, says Lethaby, “I guess it has spread to the states from there.”
The headline itself took a little while to craft, maybe 15 minutes or so, but this YMCA story had been rumbling on for a few months and I had an idea that I wanted to do a Village People headline at some point. It just worked on this occasion. I have to thank the reporter Laura Linham for writing the story and my editor of the time Philip Welch for allowing it through!