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Journalism 101: The Mainstream Media Writes Headlines

Case studies from the imaginary textbook: Journalism in a Post-Racial Society: Think Before You Ink by Ala Herschel-Cohen. New York, NY: Beth-El Press.


Below find the case facts for some hypothetical situations and the headlines that might result. Study them carefully.

Case 1

Fifteen to twenty black teenagers run amok in the downtown area of a large city, attacking White people at random. An older woman ends up in the hospital with serious injuries including a cracked skull. Police on the scene describe it as a riot. One member of the teen mob is arrested at the scene and expresses dislike of Caucasians.

Wrong: Racially Motivated Attacks Send One To Hospital, “Riot” Say Police

Right: Youths Cut Loose After Dark

Editorial: Sorry, Officer: Not Every Youthful Outburst Is  A ‘Riot’

Case 2

A long-time city councilman by the name of Wilson–the only minority member– is under investigation for embezzling $1.1 million dollars after gaining access to the city finance department’s computer system. During his arrest, Wilson cites long-term resentment and racism as the cause of his troubles.

Wrong: SHAME! Council’s Sole Minority Caught Stealing $1.1 M

Right: Accused Longtime Civil Rights Champion: ‘Racism Never Quits’

Editorial:   Wilson Accused by White Prosecutor: Is It Yet Another Conspiracy?

Case 3

 An 11-year-old white girl is kidnapped, raped, mutilated and murdered by an illegal immigrant who lived in an overcrowded trailer in a trailer park not far from her home. The immigrant, who confessed the crime to his priest, had been deported twice before, including once for being caught with an illegal gun he claimed was for hunting rabbits. The murderer stalked the girl for three weeks after seeing her ride by his trailer on her bicycle.

Wrong: Twice-Deported Illegal Confesses to Horrific Murder, Stalked Victim for Weeks

Right: Farm Worker Tells Priest of Deed, Expresses Sorrow

Editorial: Hispanics’ Catholic Faith Mitigates Effects of Newcomer Poverty, Oppression

Case 4

Four white teens get into a territorial dispute with some black teens over the use of a city park basketball court. A fistfight ensues in which a black teen gets a cut eye from a chunk of concrete thrown by one of the white kids.

Wrong: Rumble Over Hoops Leads to Cut Eye

Right: Black Teen Hospitalized in Vicious Racial Attack

Editorial:  ‘Whites Only’ All Over Again?

Case 5

A drunk driver, a 52-year-old white man from Mississippi, falls asleep at the wheel and plows into a pickup truck carrying a black man and his girlfriend. The drunk man, when he wakes, tries to excuse his recklessness by saying he had trouble seeing due to the darkness.

Wrong: Drunk Driver Kills Woman, Refuses Responsibility

Right: White Killer of Black Woman Cites “Darkness” In Heinous Act

Editorial: Made in Mississippi: White Man Kills Black Woman

Case 6

A White student brings a lawsuit against a university after she is denied admission while minority students with poorer grades and lower test scores are admitted. University’s attorney calls student a “poor sport.”

Wrong: Lawsuit Alleges ‘Racist’ Admission Policy

Right: ‘Poor Sport’ Sues Over Affirmative Action

Editorial: Why Are White People Such Poor Sports?

Case 7

A black student brings a lawsuit against a university after she is denied admission, but white students with better grades and test scores are admitted. University’s attorney says school holds all students to “the highest standards, regardless of race, religion or gender.”

Wrong: Underachieving Student Sues to Gain Admission

Right: Minority Student Sues “Colorblind Racist” School

Editorial: Colorblind Oppression and the Denial of Justice

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