Thursday, January 10, 2008

Journalistic Integrity

With a headline like the one to the left ("School band desserts; Parents given strict policy for bag lunches"), what story would you expect to read? I would expect to see two things:

1) A school banning desserts.
2) Parents being told what to pack in their children's lunches, or at least certain items being prohibited.

The story features neither. Drudge's headline isn't just a stretch of the article (as so many Drudge headlines are) but an outright hallucinatory version of the article. Let's go over the points in the wcbstv transcript:

1) "School bans desserts":

"Glenville School in Greenwich is trying to turn [childrens' eating habits] around[;] starting this year ice cream and cookies are no longer sold in the cafeteria. Instead they have fruit and yogurt as an option." (Eighth paragraph.)

2) "Parents given strict policy for bag lunches."

"Parents can pack anything they want in their kids' lunch, but they've all received the school's wellness policy that encourages them to go for healthy snacks. " (Final paragraph.)

Drudge, this is just dishonest. "Greenwich school eliminates cookies, ice cream from menu, encourages parents to pack healthy" would have been a factual, well-researched headline. It just wouldn't have stirred up nearly as much knee-jerk right-wing anger, which is obviously your intent.

Don't make your readers start guessing whether you're a liar or an idiot. I don't even care whether you should be impartial per se, as long as you're not just making things up.

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