Here are the facts: the superintendent of a school district forms a special investigative unit to crack down on corruption. In six months, by all measures, the unit, led by a former IRS special agent, has performed well, generated good results. Seventy-five cases have been closed. “A large percentage” of the investigations have resulted in exonerations. But some skulduggery has been detected and dealt with — including the theft of 20 cases of cobblers, worth about $1,600.
So you decide to run a story about the above in your newspaper, on Sunday, on the front page. How would you write the headline? Here are four choices.
a. “DISD Cobbler Crook Gets Just Desserts”
b. “DISD Stamps Out Corruption, Busts Cobbler Thief”
c. “Corruption Unit Cleans Up DISD — One Cobbler at a Time”
d. “DISD Is Doing a Great Job”
e. “Dallas School District’s Corruption Investigators Keeping Busy”
The paper went with “e” for its story.Â Now, the point of the multiple-choice quiz is this: you gotta work “cobbler” into your headline. More important, though, this story brings us positive news. The district is doing a good job. But the headline the DMN used makes me think the opposite. If I live in Plano and don’t care to follow the jump on a long story about the Dallas ISD, then I read that headline at my Sunday breakfast table, and I think: “Man, oh, man. I’m sure glad I moved to Plano. Because DISD continues to be a miserable excuse for an institution that educates children. Because there is so much corruption that investigators are keeping busy.”
Is it just me? Am I crazy? It’s them, right?