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Same Story, varying headlines

I noticed a story on the Star Tribune's website that is an AP story about national test scores are unimpressive however grades are improving. I googled this topic to look for other stories on this topic but I was only able to find the same AP story on several different sites. I did, however notice that the headlines for each story was different and in some cases changed the immediate interpretation of the story. I thought I would break the mold from previous blogs and look at the varying headlines on the same story.

Star Tribune: Test scores lag as grades improve, reports say. In this headline they use an attribution in the headline, which I do not think I see very often. Furthermore they mention BOTH test scores and grades. They mention the test scores lagging but then mention the improving grades. They do not focus solely on the bad. Furthermore there was no attribution in the headline

High School Test Sores Unimpressive: This headline takes a straight shot at the test scores and does not use a soft word like 'lag.' They just boldly say that the test scores are unimpressive. Furthermore they do not mention the fact that grades are improving. They are giving the reader the 'bad' and none of the 'good'

High school test scores unimpressive yet grades, transcripts improving: This headline, much like that of the Strib story mentions the test scores as well as the grades. However this headline goes further to mention that student's transcripts are improving as well. They mention the poor test scores than somewhat balance that out to the reader by showing them that grades and transcripts are improving. By showing one negative aspect but two positive aspects its as if they want a more positive connotation associated with the story. Also, like the previous headline, there is no attribution.

I found this blog very interesting that the same AP story could contain three very different headlines. It is interesting how different they all can be. I do not think any of the headlines perfectly encapsulated the story however I do think the Star Tribunes is the best. They mention the test scores as well as the grade and use attribution. The other two either do not offer enough information in the headline or use too much.


Great variation from the regular blog assignment, Dana. Good eye for spotting this. You raise an important topic: The headline can affect how the reader perceives the entire story and news event. Primarily that is the responsibility of the copy editor (covered in the course Jour 3155), but the reporter surely has a right to be interested in that decision, since the reporter's hard work can be undermined by a carelessly worded headline or strengthened by a well-worded one. Thanks for bringing this up.

That is crazy.. amazing.