It’s my favorite part of the Wall Street Journal – the A-hed story.
It appears on the front page of the newspaper, prime real estate. And I’ve heard that for reporters, it is the most coveted place for their work to appear.
Barry Kilgore, the modern Journal’s first managing editor, knowing that into the world of business a little mirth must be poured, started the a-hed in 1941. A-hed soon became the code name for a story light enough to “float off the page.”
As Barry Newman, a WSJ reporter wrote in 2010: “by putting the fun out front, wrapped around the day’s woes, Kilgore sent a larger message: That anyone serious enough about life to read The Wall Street Journal should also be wise enough to step back and consider life’s absurdities.”
Newman also notes that everyone who works at the WSJ—whether chronicling a war or tracking the price of lead—is free to write an A-hed if the spirit moves.
And he concludes: “Being silly six days a week is hard work, but it’s worth it—for The Journal’s writers and editors, and for its readers over the past half-century or more. So lighten up. Relax. Don’t take everything so seriously.”
You may still be wondering, so what is an a-hed story exactly.
To help with that, I’ve provided the headlines and links to the last 10 a-hed stories. Unfortunately, accessing most, if not all, of these stories requires a WSJ subscription.
- They Played on the Main Stage at Woodstock 50 Years Ago—No, Really (this is actually a sneak peak at the a-hed on the front page of tomorrow’s (Friday’s) paper
- What’s Fresh in Fruit? Grapes That Taste Like Cotton Candy and Grape Soda.
- Résumés Are Starting to Look Like Instagram—and Sometimes Even Tinder (those crazy millennials)
- Think U.S. Politics Is Exhausting? Mexico’s President Has a News Conference Every Morning.
- The Search for Meat Substitutes Leads to Watermelon—and Diner Dissent (has the fake meat movement jumped the shark?)
- ‘I Try Not To Be Competitive.’ Summer Camp for College Alums Is Not Relaxing
- More People Are Working Remotely. That Means Unexpected Guests On Video Calls*.
- Rap Music Ditches Dollars for the Cash App Mobile Payment System
- Tired of Waiting for Brexit, Britons Munch Through Nutella Stockpiles
- Liberty? Tony? Pretzel? New York Officials Puzzle Over Fare Card Name
As you can see, the a-hed stories cover a wide range of topics. But when you see such headlines on the front page of the WSJ, where it is surrounded by stories about the economy, the financial markets, technology, and politics, it stands out like a rose among thorns, just begging to be read.
I try to impress upon my students the value of getting into the habit of reading the WSJ on a daily basis, suggesting that the a-hed stories may be a nice way to ease into such a process.
The a-hed has been a key part of the Journal for nearly 80 years. At this point, I think it has stood the test of time, and we can look forward to these quirky stories for a long time to come.
*Image from Your Daily Laugh, showing Professor Robert Kelly’s interview with the BBC about South Korea