Headline writing exercise

In-class activity: Practice by rewriting these newspaper headlines from the Star-Ledger…

Example 1: Sokolich: How could Christie forget me?

During a nationally televised press conference last month, Gov. Chris Christie sought to highlight the absurdity of the claim he sanctioned last year’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse him.

“Until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup,” Christie said.

The governor added that Sokolich “was not on my radar screen,” that he didn’t know what Sokolich looked like and that he had never heard the mayor’s name “until all this stuff happened.”

Those statements were undermined today by the revelation that Sokolich and at least two other mayors dined with Christie at a luncheon at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, in 2010.

In an interview with The Star-Ledger, Sokolich said he, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and one or two other mayors talked about ways to reduce the tax burden on New Jerseyans over a meal of beef tenderloin.

“He was promoting his toolkit for tax relief,” Sokolich said. “It was a small number of people. Just me and him, the mayor of Hoboken, another mayor or two and (spokesman) Michael Drewniak.”

The mayor said he later attended two holiday parties at the mansion and saw Christie at a small number of other events.

A spokesman for Christie tonight confirmed the 2010 lunch took place but downplayed its significance, saying the governor regularly hosts such meetings. The spokesman, Kevin Roberts, said Drewniak was not present at the gathering….

Example 2: NFL draft prospect reveals he’s gay

The scouting reports on Michael Sam, a first-team All-American, radiate with words NFL teams love to hear: “A tackler with speed;” “Quick off the snap;” “A proven playmaker.”

Sam, already destined to be selected in May’s NFL Draft, instantly transformed his public profile Sunday night with an historic disclosure that he is gay.

If the projections for him are on the mark, Sam, a University of Missouri defensive end, would become the first openly gay male athlete to be drafted and then play in any of the country’s four major sports leagues.

“I’m not afraid of who I am,” he said last night on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam. I’m a college graduate. I’m African-American and I’m gay.”

Sam offered the same disclosure in a story published last night by the New York Times.

Sandwiched a week after the Super Bowl and a week before the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Sam’s announcement adds intrigue to a time of year when the league is evaluating the country’s top talents.

Come summer training, the league and his future teammates would certainly be scrutinized for how he is accepted and navigates the daily rituals of life in the NFL.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”….

Example 3: Holy Grail! This Dude is Golden

SOCHI, Russia – Nations of the world, please listen carefully: Some of you might top us in education, in health care, even in industries we once owned, but know this about the old U-S-of-A.

You will never out-dude us.

Jeff Spicoli. Jeffrey Lebowski. Keanu Reeves. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. We are a nation of dudes, united in our dudeliness, and while that sometimes means we are stuck looking for our cars, it usually means we are so much cooler and better than you.

Add Sage Kotsenburg to the Dudes List. He is 20 years old and has long bleached-blonde hair streaming out of his ski hat. He has a shiny silver jacket and a gold medal around his neck, the first ever in the new snowboarding slopestyle event at the Olympics and the first for anyone in Sochi.

“I’m so stoked to be here, representing the USA, for sure,” he said, the first of 14 times he used the word stoked during a 22-minute press conference – which has to be an unofficial Olympic record.

This is a dude who, the night before the biggest race of his life, wisely skipped the Opening Ceremonies to rest up … and then spent that night in his room eating any junk food he and his pals could find.

“I was eating mad snacks,” he said. “Chocolate. Onion rings. Chips. We were chilling really hard. Then we fell asleep watching Fight Club. Getting stoked, you know?”

This is a dude who, when told a side-by-side photo of him and Spicoli, Sean Penn’s character from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” was making the rounds on social media, let out a big laugh.

“That is sick,” he said. “I’m so down with that. That is so awesome that somebody did that. Good old Spicoli!”

This is a dude who called his brother, Blaze, 10 minutes before he was set to start down the hill. It was about 2 a.m. back in Park City, Utah, but 50 people were in the family house ready to watch the event on the live stream, when Blaze saw the Russian number show up on the phone.

“He heard me and he was like ‘WHAAAT!’” Kotsenburg said. “I started talking about the run and he was like, ‘Yeah, you got this.’ He was the one who got me into snowboarding so talking to him before my run was like the coolest thing.”

Slopestyle is one of 12 new sports debuting the Sochi Games. There are times when a sportswriter can fake it covering the Olympics, and there are times when you look up at the screen, see a snowboarder sailing over a giant nesting doll, and think, “Gotta ease up on the vodka.”…

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