Wikinews:Foot heads arms body
A good headline is a key aspect of a good news article. The purpose of a headline is to get people to read the article, just like the purpose of an advertising slogan is to get people to buy the product. When you write an article, you need to sell it with the headline.
As is hopefully clear to most people, Wikinews is not Wikipedia. When people go to Wikipedia, they are looking for information on a known subject - they generally know the name of what they're looking for, and they can type that into the search box to find the article with the same name. When people come to Wikinews, they hope to find out about things that have happened - they want to look at a list of headlines to get an idea of what's been happening in the world.
Thus, whereas article titles on Wikipedia tend to simply name the article's subject (e.g. w:Nigeria), on Wikinews the titles should be more descriptive, such as Nigerian anti-corruption officials arrest former governor James Ibori.
The Humpty Dumpty principle
|"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."|
The headline should be a teaser to the contents of the article. Unlike the lead section, which should describe the full article, the headline need only mention one aspect. However, it should at least be one of the major aspects of the article (so if the article is about the results of a tennis match, and the last sentence briefly mentions some of the celebrities present in the grandstand, the headline should not be "Posh and Becks attend tennis match").
So, in writing headlines, the Humpty Dumpty principle says "Choose a headline that means just what you need it to mean, neither more nor less".
Make 'em Laugh
A headline doesn't have to be a dry, stale statement of events. While modern-day newspapers writing for Google are apparently going more that way(), a little wit can go a long way towards attracting a reader. While perhaps a copy-editor went too far in summarising the article on British politician Michael Foot being placed in charge of a committee on decommissioning nuclear weapons (leading to the headline that gives this essay its title), it's possible to make your headline appealing to both human and automatic readers.