Public Editor

Should headline have mentioned report came from Brownback supporters in Legislature?

I’ve heard from readers today who objected particularly to a sub-headline in Sunday’s paper, on a story about a report from Republicans in the Kansas Legislature about a tax plan proposed by Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis’ proposal to freeze Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts.

The subheadline in print was, “Legislative study says his proposal to freeze tax cuts would be costly to the poorest Kansans,” under the main headline, “Report takes on Davis tax plan.”

Two emailers also thought the story itself should have led with what was its third sentence: “The report was produced at the direction of Brownback’s Republican allies in the Legislature.”

Of course I understand readers’ wanting stories about political back-and-forth to be clear when the reporter knows legislative action is blatantly partisan.

I shared this feedback with reporter Brad Cooper (who doesn’t write headlines, by the way). His insight on the report itself:

“The report was more neutral. It’s how you wanted to interpret the report that could have been more positive or negative. … I don’t know that I even agree (the report) was critical.”