When a Headline Tells the Wrong Story: Piling on DISD

Donald Keith Johnson was arrested at 2 a.m. today for smoking crack while driving. Bad move. You might expect a headline such as: “Man Smokes Crack While Driving.” Or: “Crack Smoker Busted Behind Wheel.” I’m partial to the second, actually. But the DMN went with this headline: “Dallas Teacher Accused of Smoking Crack While Driving.” Because, yes, the guy is a DISD teacher. Or was.

Here’s the thing, though. If, say, an employee of Exxon Mobil were caught doing the same thing, the headline wouldn’t read “Exxon Engineer Accused of Smoking Crack While Driving.” Johnson wasn’t smoking crack at school. He wasn’t caught high at school. I’d argue that his occupation is part of the story and it deserves mention, perhaps even in the lead. But not in the headline.

Again, this is one of the reasons why, if you get your news from the newspaper, you have a more negative impression of the school district than people who get their news from other sources. Remember that study I told you about back in April?


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24 responses to “When a Headline Tells the Wrong Story: Piling on DISD”

  1. Bethany says:

    I think it also says something about how teachers are underpaid. How, you ask? Because in the words of the great Whitney Houston, “Crack is cheap. I make too much for me to ever smoke crack.”

    Ergo, crack is for poor people. Teacher smoking crack = poor person.

  2. aw come on says:

    He’s overqualified to be a high school teacher in Texas–can smoke crack and drive at the same time? Isn’t that like walking and chewing gum? Maybe they can promote him to administration.

  3. Insider says:

    I am an ordained Catholic priest who left active ministry eight years ago, yet I know that if I got arrested for smoking crack the headline would read “Former priest accused of smoking crack while driving.” It’s not about the DMN going negative on DISD. It’s about writing a headline that will get people to read the story.

  4. Mike says:

    I think in this case, I would put “teacher” in the headline. I’m more likely to read the story. Since teachers work with kids, I think anytime they have bad/strange/etc behavior it’s more news worthy. I saw the story on WFAA.com and I clicked on link because I wanted to see where the guy was teaching (WFAA headline just says teacher and doesn’t mention DISD).

    If the person was an Exxon engineer, you wouldn’t put it in headline but I think it deserves to go in if the person is a policeman, fireman, politician, etc.

  5. LakeWWWooder says:

    Yep check out the comments on dallasnews.com:

    Posted by shootingstar61 | 1 hour ago
    DISD at it’s best.

    The guy doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe but ‘knows’ DISD is bad from constant drubbing by TDMN.

    I have turned against 3700 Ross. But headlines like that only reinforce the perception of those who think every DISD school is bad.

    Hello folks, there is a difference between the administration, board and individual schools.

    TDMN needs to get some coin these days, and I am sure that such sensational headlines sell.

  6. B says:

    Putting “teacher” in the headline is completely relevant – otherwise what would be the point? People are arrested all the time for driving under the influence of something and 99% of the time is doesn’t make news. No one cares. Why it matters this time is that this is a person who is/was entrusted to teach children. That’s what makes it relevant. And even more sad than plain ol’ Bob The Crackhead getting busted for the 10th time.

  7. Bethany says:

    I do think it’s odd that his DL address was the school’s address. Does he not have a home?

  8. Amy S says:

    On a brighter note, 55 students from Hexter Elementary went to the Farmer’s Market today to learn about food and healthy eating. 15 volunteers from Baylor Hospital’s nutrition department came over to assist.

    Any chance that will make a headline? I got $5 that says “nope”.

  9. Tim Rogers says:

    @ Insider: you make a valid point.

  10. GuiltyBystander says:

    1. Agree the DMN dog piles DISD every chance it gets. Too bad it doesn’t go after politicians/city councilmen/mayors with same fervor.
    2. The headline said “Dallas teacher” not “DISD teacher”. Kinda picking nits there, Tim.

  11. Johann says:

    Oh Jeez, your own headline:
    “When a Headline Tells the Wrong Story: Piling on DISD”
    implies that the headline was “wrong” or misleading.
    The headline wasn’t “wrong” or misleading but factually accurate. Did it emphasize a detail of the story that may or may not be worth emphasizing? That’s debatable. Barely.
    Is your own headline factually based? No. It is misleading.
    You really should be embarrassed.

  12. Pete says:

    Dog Bites Man…
    Dallas Teacher Smokes Crack…
    Big whoop-de-doo

    On the serious side, there are some jobs that bring a certain level of scutiny with them. Teachers are one.

    I bet if an Exxon executive did the same, the headline would be “Exxon Exec Accused of Smoking Crack…”

  13. Public newssense says:

    Price of gasoline plummets;
    crack now in teacher price range

    I think that headline probably is factually accurate.

  14. Insider says:

    I can’t count the number of headlines I’ve read about Madonna that refer to her as the “Material Girl,” despite the fact that she’s had dozens of hits since that song was released in 1985 and she could easily be identified with any one of them. She’ll take that moniker to her grave. I had a conversation with Rod Dreher about his blog and he admitted that he came up with the most provocative headlines so he could drive traffic to blog because the more traffic he got the more money he made.

  15. LakeWWWooder says:

    Another lighter note (must match Hexter or is that Hillcrest? supporter):

    Woodrow’s 2nd in State Competition Mock Trial Team has been invited to Harvard. Do you think that will make the headlines in TDMN?

  16. Amy S says:

    Yowza LakeWWWooder, that’s amazing. My son just started Mock Trial, he kinda likes it (said proudly the mom who can’t wait to say “My son, the attorney”).

  17. Amy S says:

    @Insider: We refer to her as the “Like a Virgin” girl.

  18. Amy S says:

    Oh, and NOTHING drives hits to a blog like “Free Booze”, IJS.

  19. Paul says:

    WOW! First the Observer and now the DMN. It’s Bully Tim!

  20. Steve Blow strikes back, hinting that Tim might be arrested smoking crack.


    You stay classy, Steve.

  21. JD says:

    And Julia Roberts will always be “Pretty Woman” . . . just as Tim will always be “Mr. (used to be) Funny Guy”

  22. ziggurat says:

    Just imagine the scandal if he’d been caught smoking crack while driving AND talking on a cellphone in an HP school zone.
    By the way, Johann said it best.

  23. Andrea says:

    1. “Steve Blow strikes back, hinting that Tim might be arrested smoking crack.”
    I re-read his message just to double-check before posting this, and his message says nothing of the kind. He does respond to a post from Tim in which *Tim* suggests that might happen? Is that the message you’re slamming?

    2. “Dallas teacher” can easily mean a teacher who lives in Dallas. It is common in news headlines to indicate the city associated with the non-famous person who has made the news, and as already was mentioned, some jobs simply will always be newsworthy in certain contexts. If the headline had said “DISD teacher,” then I think you’d have a much stronger case.