(De)Fault (Head)Lines

If The New Yorker wants to avoid another goose egg at next year’s ASME awards, perhaps the venerable weekly ought to spruce up its headline writing—if only to steer the judges’ attention away from Adam Moss.

Connie Bruck’s 10,000-plus-word profile in the current issue, dated May 21, looks like a typical magazine-award contender, but with an all-too-familiar headline.

It reads “Fault Lines,” accompanied by the subhead “Can Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa keep control of L.A.’s battling factions?”

Of course, besides the figurative lines being drawn, it’s also true that Los Angeles has earthquakes. Indeed, there was a 3.0 quake in the San Fernando Valley on May 13, the day before Ms. Bruck’s piece arrived on newsstands.

And that earth-shaking event was roughly 18 months after media critic Ken Auletta wrote an 8,400-word piece entitled “Fault Line,” with the subhead “Can the Los Angeles Times survive its owners?”

(Answer: They can’t. Just ask Dean Baquet, Andres Martinez and Sam Zell.)

But The New Yorker’s fault lines aren’t restricted to the City of Angels, either: Six weeks after Mr. Auletta’s piece ran, there was Steve Coll’s letter from Kashmir.

The title: “Fault Lines.” The subhead: “After the earthquake, some strange new alliances.”

And three makes a trend!

So who’s (ahem) at fault here?

Well, at The New Yorker, there’s just one editor who writes the headlines for everything—from Anthony Lane’s film reviews to George Packer’s odysseys through war-ravaged Iraq.

Deputy editor Pamela Maffei McCarthy, when reached by phone, said that there were different editors writing headlines in 2005, but declined to discuss the matter further.

But she did have this to say: “Don’t expect a fourth!” (De)Fault (Head)Lines