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I was reading an article about the first issue published by the satiric magazine 'The Onion' after the 9/11 attacks. One of the headlines of that issue was

Massive Attack On Pentagon Page 14 News

I simply don't get the meaning of the sentence and I'm especially confused about the last part, "Page 14 News". I find that part unrelated to the rest of the sentence.

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"Front page news" is a synonym for the important or notable story. It's the news that's important enough to put on the cover of the newspaper.

So, page 14 news would be, in comparison, very unimportant, or not at all noteworthy, novel or interesting.

The irony is that a massive attack on the Pentagon would be expected to be all of those. Unless of course, it is happening often. Or perhaps if the Pentagon had ceased to be seen as important.

Edit: I was half-asleep when I originally wrote this, and hadn't spotted the fact that the item in the Onion was a contemporaneous report on 9/11. So the irony is that so many massive attacks have happened that an attack on the Pentagon is being "buried" on page 14.

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    In the UK, the news on the last page (the back page cover) would generally be the most important sports story. This is, however, no longer dependable, as often there now is a supplementary sports section. – Euan M Dec 1 '15 at 6:05
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    Your last paragraph is a little confusing. The reason a massive attack on the Pentagon wasn't front page news (in the Onionverse) had nothing to do with the frequency of such attacks; it was because it occurred on 9/11. – Russell Borogove Dec 1 '15 at 8:18
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    Was "The Onion"'s article from that date? If so, the "massive attacks are happening so often" that the attack on the Pentagon is buried on page 14. – Euan M Dec 1 '15 at 13:06
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    I think it's a comment on the fact that the attack on the WTC was spectacular, long-lasting, and easy for media outlets of all kinds to cover. The Pentagon attack, on the other hand, was short-lived, had few witnesses or footage, and - relative to the WTC - simply not as spectacular. Hence page 14. – Jeremy Dec 1 '15 at 13:11
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    Plus the others had happened, and were still being covered, by the time the attack on the Pentagon happened. News is generally actually "what happens where the news crews are", and they'd already all been sent to NYC. – Euan M Dec 1 '15 at 13:41
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In addition to the satirical content as explained by Euan M, the grammatical meaning may not be immediately obvious because it's written in headlinese. There's implicitly an "is" between "Pentagon" and "Page", so in plain English the headline would be "[A] Massive Attack On [The] Pentagon [Is] Page 14 News". This example could be especially confusing since it's a headline about a headline, which isn't very common.

Here's the headline in context (see the left sidebar):

Original issue

  • I disagree that this is a headline about a headline. A preferable parsing would be: [A] Massive Attack On [The] Pentagon[, information on] Page 14 [of the] News[paper] which is not an uncommon construction. – dotancohen Dec 2 '15 at 13:25
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    @dotancohen That's also a valid interpretation, although I'd expect there to be a comma. In addition, the original printing has the "Page 14 News" part unseparated, next to a bunch of other one-liner headlines, and a subheading says to "see NATION page 14A", so it would be redundant if "page 14 news" was meant to tell you where to look. See the left column of the original front page: l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/LFTs7_hiSeoiOpQ5NVi1ug--/… – Milo P Dec 2 '15 at 16:51
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    I think the intended interpretation is "[is] Page 14 News" rather than "[see] Page 14 news". But the latter is possible, and even the ambiguity could be intentional on the part of the author. – Euan M Dec 8 '15 at 19:12
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There is (in fact) a good amount of speculation here about grammar, headlines, insinuation and what my dad used to call "maybe...if". That is all "well and good" (enough)... maybe.

Insight might be gained into the "deeper meaning" of the headlines, sarcasm (Onion, was it?) to review the events of the day as well as the one before.

Rumsfeld reported 2.3 trillion missing from the Pentagon Budget on the day before: September 10th. On September 11th the Pentagon was INDEED hit... in the financial office. This might be a good reason to either bury news of this on page 14 (deliberately, if in fact, it was really done) or (Onion) sarcastically. For some folks, "connecting the dots" is not easy at all in the case of things with which they are not familiar or areas which may not be their expertise.

Following the link sends me to a Newsweek article, from early October, 2001. It's an interview with Onion writer who says they took a week off from writing ANYTHING. He is listing things they thought they WOULDN'T be able to write, because ANY sarcasm just wouldn't have been "fitting".

How differently these things are viewed today.

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