News Goggles: Race in headlines

Grades: 7-9, 10-12+

News Goggles annotations and activities offer news literacy takeaways on timely topics. These resources feature examples of actual news coverage, including full news reports, headlines, breaking news alerts or excerpts. 

This News Goggles resource originally appeared in a previous issue of The Sift newsletter for educators, which explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses journalism and press freedom topics and examines social media trends and issues. Read archives of the newsletter and subscribe here. 

On Oct. 26, 2020, Philadelphia police fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who was holding a knife. Wallace’s death prompted protests that at times turned violent. News coverage of the fatal shooting called new attention to the ongoing debate in journalism over when to include race as a relevant detail, especially in headlines. In this edition of News Goggles, we’re going to compare three headlines on the incident and examine different approaches by news organizations to reporting on the role of race in this story.

 Featured News Goggles resource: These classroom-ready slides offer annotations and questions on this topic.

Discuss: Which of the three headlines do students think is the best? Why? If the class had to write a headline for this news event, what would it be? Would it include any references to race, either in reference to Wallace or the officers?

Note: Many news organizations follow the editing rules and language suggestions outlined in The Associated Press Stylebook. It includes entries about race-related coverage and offers this guidance: “Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. There are, however, occasions when race is pertinent.” In June 2020, AP updated its style to capitalize Black “when referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context.”

Idea: Have students read this piece from AP, which explains the organization’s decision to capitalize Black, among other races and ethnicities, but not “white.” Do students agree or disagree with AP’s approach? Why? Consider sharing students’ feedback with AP here. 

Have feedback about this resource? Or an idea for a future News Goggles? Please share it with us at [email protected]. You can also use this guide for a full list of News Goggles from the 2020-21 school year for easy reference. 

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