“No, it’s not,” I replied.
“But I read it in the newspaper,” she said.
She was right. She had read an article on SF Gate with the headline, “S.F. Leadership High on state’s list of 10 for closure.”
And she had read “Poor test scores may shut Leadership High in San Francisco” in The Examiner.
Unfortunately, because of poorly written headlines, my student — and thousands more — received a misleading representation of the truth.
In fact, the school is not on the state’s list for closure, as the Chronicle suggested. That’s just false. And while it’s true that test scores are influential in our current climate, there’s no evidence to suggest that the school’s charter renewal is in jeopardy.
The truth is: (1) A charter school association recommended our school’s closure because of low test scores, (2) That organization has no authority over the school’s existence, (3) The school applies for charter renewal with the district’s Board of Education this Spring.
If you read the entirety of the articles, both writers — Jill Tucker and Amy Crawford — do an adequate job reporting the story. After all, when you’re pressured with a deadline and limited space, it’s hard to get deep into nuances.
But most people are influenced mainly by an article’s headline. That’s what we read first. That’s what grabs our attention.
Unfortunately, it’s standard practice in journalism that an article’s headline writer is different from an article’s writer.
A headline writer must quickly scan an article for its contents and write a headline that fits the amount of space in the newspaper or on a website.
In both the Chronicle and the Examiner’s stories, the headlines are misleading — and have caused a great deal of anxiety. If I distrusted the news media (which I don’t — I have a deep respect for journalism), I would say the headline writer knew exactly what he or she was doing in order to sell papers and cause controversy.