Today, I had a reader ask how to respond to a particular story which had appeared on the front page of our print edition. I sent her a link to the web version of the story, trying to be as helpful as I could, and she sent me a somewhat huffy e-mail in response insisting that what I had sent her was NOT the story she was talking about! Furthermore, she implied that the web site was falling down on the job, or worse, by not including the story that she considered so controversial!
Well, the story I tried to point her to was exactly the same story she was talking about -- with one exception: the headline. The headline on the print edition, which had been written by someone else, was "No property tax increase required." The headline on the web version was "Finance panel OKs school budget."
Generally, with few exceptions, the front page stories you read here on the T-G web site are exactly the same as the stories that appear in the print newspaper. We copy and paste the story from our newsroom computer system into the content management system for the web page.
But the headlines are frequently different. Often, while I'm working on the web page, I have no idea what headline René or David is going to put on the print version of a story. Even in cases where I know what the print headline is going to be, the print headline may be dictated by space requirements which are quite different from the space requirements for putting a story on the web page.
In general, a headline is supposed to catch your eye. They are sometimes written in a hurry, and sometimes written by someone who hasn't had time to read the story thoroughly. You should never rely on the headline for information any more than you should eat the laminated menu at Ruby Tuesday's. The actual information is contained in the story, not the headline.
In the case of this finance committee story, there were several key facts contained in the first few paragraphs. All of them were important, which is why all of them were near the top of the story. René, who wrote the print headline, noted the fact that the county property tax rate would remain the same. I, when I wrote the web headline, noted the fact that the school budget had been approved. But in either case, you needed to read the story to get all of the details.