Please Think About The Opposite Of What I Just Said

I can’t get Leonardo DiCaprio out of my mind.

Not because I’m such a big fan. But because I associate Leo with the movie “Titanic,” in which deck chairs became projectiles. This is precisely the image that the new CEO of Chicago Public Schools does not want taxpayers to have in mind about the reorganization underway at the chronically troubled system.  But his misfired messaging guarantees that half a million Chicago Tribune readers now associate his administration with the imminent disaster at sea and catastrophic loss of life.

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah waits for several paragraphs to quote Brizard about plan to shuffle administrative staffers into different roles.  “This is not about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said. “It really is a different look. You’re not going to see the level of independence in the area as you saw in the past. We’re going to create a level of coherence within those areas.

As hackneyed as the metaphor is, it is what Tribune editors chose for the subhead on the story:

CPS reorganization: Brizard to realign ‘mini-superintendents’
‘This is not about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,’ he says

Many readers will only take away the one thing that Brizard says isn’t the case.  Now imagine how much power his message would have had if he had used a powerful, positive phrase that was so compelling that it was in the subhead. “Putting the right people in the right places to lead the right changes.” Isn’t that better?

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