ACES announces winners of 2013 headline contest

March 20, 2014 By Gerri Berendzen Conferences

ACES announced the winners of its annual headline contest during the opening session of the 18th annual conference Thursday in Las Vegas.

ACES’ premier contest aims to reward good headline writing in newspapers, nonnewspaper publications, websites, and now even Twitter.

Individual winners in professional categories could win up to $300. Winners in student categories could win up to $125.

Winning headlines were published in 2013.

The complete list of winners, along with judges comments, is below. Click on the title of the entry category to view a PDF of all the honored headlines in that category.



1: Jim Webster, The Washington Post

The headlines in this entry were a delight to read. “It’s enough to make anyone anti-pasta” is perhaps the best head I’ve ever seen on a negative dining review. The wordplay throughout the entry is fantastic

2: Kevin Leung, Los Angeles Times

This entry had a really nice mix of heds. Some features, some harder news, a 1-column offering. I particularly enjoyed “wokking encyclopedia.

3: Cass Peterson, The New York Times

The tone was just right on this batch of heds. “G’Day From Bushwick” was a personal favorite.

Honorable mentions: Laura Dominick, Los Angeles Times

Jim McNett, The Oregonian


1B – 100-200, INDIVIDUAL

1: Rich Mills, Omaha World-Herald

The judges found this to be the most well-rounded headline collection, as each hed was engaging. The first one, by suggesting that a seemingly random date in 2036 is less interesting than it used to be, actually makes the reader wonder why it’s less interesting or why it was ever interesting in the first place. Wordplay was solid with “peanut butter/lid” and “robbery/hold up” combinations. Tight hed counts on a few of these further showed the editor’s skills.

2: Marianne Tamburro, The Star-Ledger of Newark

This entry was a strong overall package. “Breaking the sound barrier,” about a school tutorial for deaf students, was a clever way to convey a story about overcoming obstacles. “A joyful tokin’ of their appreciation,” about customers anticipating Colorado’s new marijuana law, was just wonderful and worked greatly with the photo of the merchant in the tie-dyed T-shirt. “Tanning mom basks in glow of legal victory.” Not only did this hed deliver the goods factually and cleverly, but was written in a tight one column. Not an easy task.

3: Tim Sacco, Omaha World-Herald

This entry had a great diversity: news, sports, columns, features and even a brief. “To build a better life, he first built a better him” is a wonderful hed, and the deck just made it better. The “eggnog” and “wedding party” are fun without getting in the way of the story.

Honorable mentions: Tom Justice, The Virginian-Pilot

Courtney Pitts Mattern, Omaha World-Herald

Brittney Davies, The Star-Ledger of capture


1C – 0-100, INDIVIDUAL

1: Peter Donahue, Providence Journal

Hands down, this entry was the unanimous winner. It was sort of a contest to describe the most favorite headline, there’s this one … and this one … and yes, what about this one? And isn’t that just brilliant. Wish I had written that one. You get the idea. Try it at home.

2: Andy Goodwin, Politico

Each headline definitely captures the tone and mood of the story. There are strong nuances here with a touch of emotions and allusions.

3: Michael Roehrman, Wichita Eagle

This headline writer really knows the art of headline writing. He/she has successfully resisted the easy over-the-top puns, but just as successfully taken familiar phrases and turned them into gems by engaging in delightful word play.

Honorable mention: Juliette Beaulieu, Shaw Media

This headline writer nailed the clever connection of words in this entry. In seven words, the writer summed up a complicated legal story (“Anybody home? If so, more prison risk” ) The wordplay in “Shear Delight” perfectly linked the photos and story, capturing the spirit of the event.



1: Hugh Garvey, Playboy

The food headlines are (sorry) just delicious, showing imagination and range and complementing great page design. The group leverages television (“Prawn Star”) rock ‘n’ roll (“New Oyster Cult”) visual art (“Still Life.”) and municipal government (“Port Authority”). And “Next Pig Thing” is delightfully fun – the right amount of silly. “The Revolution will be Vaporized” was an effective pop counterculture reference.

2: James Tehrani, MediaTec Publishing

There’s simple goodness in “Trustworthiness of Truthiness.” (Somewhere Stephen Colbert is smiling.) The double entendre in “A Beef with Jerky” snaps satisfyingly.

3: Brooke Smith, Benefits Canada (Rogers Publishing)

“Spreading the Health” twists a phrase nicely. And “How to Win Members” would make Dale Carnegie grin with appreciation.



1: Gael Fashingbauer Cooper,

“Twerk or treat” is funny, sassy, spot-on, snappy, and easy to understand. I didn’t have to stop and figure it out. This headline made me want to read the story.

2: Caroline May, Richmond BizSense

3: David Fuller, Winnipeg Free Pres



Honorable mention: Kayla Overbey, The University Daily Kansan


5A – 200+, STAFF

1: San Francisco Chronicle

This entry plays on words that cleverly conveyed what the story is about — “Women advised to find better half who does 50%” and “We’re in a state of optimism” — not just puns for puns’ sake. Heads like “The naked and the wed” make the reader smile all the way into the deck: “Couple’s nude S.F. wedding ceremony comes off without a stitch.”

2: The Wall Street Journal

3: The Dallas Morning News (Portfolio A)

Honorable: Los Angeles Times (Portfolio A)

5B – 100-200, STAFF

1: The Virginian-Pilot

The Manti Teo hed reflected what most of us were probably thinking, as did the movie review for “The Lone Ranger.” The FGCU hed was a superb example of playing off the art, as was “Pig wheels keep on turnin’,” which made me laugh out loud (in a good way).

2: The Detroit News

This entry did what a group entry should do: highlight the depth of talent on the copy desk. A banner hed, hard news heds, a sports hed, feature heds, a column hed. Six columns. One column. Every one was solid, some were great, and all invited me into the story. My two favorites epitomize the range of this entry.

3: The Washington Post Express


5C – 0-100, STAFF

1: Daily Herald

The entries are solid headlines that dig into the heart of the content and context without going over the top of taste and sensibility. The writers did a great job of stepping back from the stories to write conversational headlines with witty wordplay that hooks the readers’ attention. The headlines excel at evoking emotions that match the tone of the articles. Every one is a winner.

2: Politico

Writing clever and creative headlines for hard news stories is an advanced skill, one to be treasured and recognized. This collection of headlines exhibits deeply nuanced writing and thinking, each one loaded with information.

3: Wichita Eagle

This newspaper consistently writes creative headlines that should draw in readers – whether it’s just a twist on facts – oil and water mix – or a rhyming feature — menu over venue. Each is a delight to read.



Honorable mention: Playboy



1: NPR

These headlines flowed with great rhythm. The “Exorcist” headline is awesome. It puts this batch up a notch. The Madeline rhyme is sweet and funny, not overdone. Each headline made me want to read the story.

2: (Wichita Eagle)

3: NBC News Digital



1: The Daily Tar Heel

This collection of professional-quality headlines shows excellent work in opinion, features and sports. The rape editorial headline is arresting and resonant. The lacrosse headline — “Overtime and overdue” — is catchy and appropriately celebratory. “Kansas City Calamity” expresses the agony of defeat through the power of rhyme. “He came, he saw, he stole Christmas” is a stroke of genius, as perfect as a headline can be.

2: Baylor University

“Well-rounded for squares” plays nicely off the square peg-round hole phrase. “PETA hypocrisy gets our goat” doesn’t miss a beast, or beat. And “Me My Selfie and I” references a major trend and a famous word of 2013.

3: Laramie County Community College

“Catch a Neighbor by the Tow” brightly conjures up the singsong “eenie meenie” rhyme. “Error … Reboot” is smile inducing and apropos for our computer-dominated everything. The Hansel and Gretel taking candy head shows it’s no wonder these kids got into trouble – they never listened to their parents.

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