Headlines on School Food Choices Misleading

January 9th, 2008 7:26 PM

File this under the Misleading Headlines category. On Drudge today, there was a link to a story headlined Greenwich School Bans Desserts. Drudge's link was entitled 'School Bans Desserts; Parents Given Strict Policy For Bag Lunches'. The only problem with this was that that was NOT the actual content of the story. According to the actual story, as reported by WCBS TV Channel 2 in Connecticut,

Glenville School in Greenwich is trying to turn things around, starting this year ice cream and cookies are no longer sold in the cafeteria. Instead they have fruit and yogurt as an option. Parents were doing their best, sending their kids to school with healthy lunches or hoping they'd make decent choices if they were buying lunch at school. But when cookies and ice cream were offered two days a week, things changed in a hurry.

In other words, the school simply ceased selling certain desserts in the school cafeteria- they did not ban students from eating said desserts, nor are students forbidden from bringing these desserts from home. Despite the headlines, the story clearly made the point that,

Parents can pack anything they want in their kids' lunch, but they've all received the school's wellness policy that encourages them to go for healthy snacks.

Personally, I have nothing but approval for the school's actions. For too long, kids have had access to food that has essentially no nutritional value. However, the story does not agree with the sensational headline. the headline strongly suggests that the school not only forbade students from eating desserts, but also forbade parents from determining what foods to give their kids in bag lunches. To the contrary, if one actually reads the story, the school merely sent suggestions to parents- they did not ban parents from making whatever lunches they wish for their children.

To me this is a problem with the media's desire to sensationalize everything. This story is almost a non-event; a school stops selling cookies and ice cream in its cafeteria. But the headline tries to make it into a cause celebre, which in fact was not the case. And I consider that both the original news outlet- in this case WCBS TV channel 2 in Connecticut and Drudge are complicit in this. News should exist to present real, straightforward stories. The original report had a very misleading headline, and Drudge made it even worse. Yet the actual story contains virtually nothing that is cause for complaint, at least in my opinion. However, if one only reads the headlines, as so many people do, then one would have a completely incorrect idea of the case. Media in the United States (and around the world- especially Western media) have a very bad habit of inflaming stories with headlines that bear little resemblance to the facts. Think of the Duke rape hoax and the role media played in the inflaming of that case. Think of the Hurricane Katrina reports that proved to be untrue or over-hyped. The media bears huge responsibility for this, and they need to do a better job of presenting reports in a sober, factual light. Unfortunately, as this incident shows, the media has a long way to go. And if they cannot even do a good job on a small, local story such as this, how can Americans trust them on much bigger issues such as Presidential elections or the campaign in Iraq? Cross-posted on StoneHeads.