Sometimes a headline can take the subject of your photograph, pick them up by the belt, and chuck them straight under the bus. This is a very frustrating situation for a newspaper photographer because you often have little control over the situation or just don't see it coming. It mostly happens while covering sensitive subjects like crime, weight, sex, etc. where the threshold for embarrassment is low.
This headline/picture combination in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my attention this morning for that reason. The headline, "Cops keep lid on gang violence", makes it appear that the unhappy looking fellow with the officer is a gang member. Once you read the cutline, you see that he is just unhappy that the police are ticketing his friend. The poor guy isn't even being arrested and now his picture and the unfortunate headline are on the front page, above the fold, proudly displayed on newspaper racks across a nine-county area. Ouch.
I don't know the particulars of how this happened in today's Chronicle, but generally this is how a headline ends up sandbagging your subject: You are given a photo assignment with a general overview of the story, like "This is about how the police are being more proactive in the Mission" etc. etc. It can even go as far as "I'm talking about gang crime, but it's really more of a broad story about police activity in the area." You go out and shoot the pictures, they accurately reflect the story, or a significant part of the story. You edit based on your best pictures and how they tell the story you think is being written. In the meantime, the angle of the story can change during the reporting or something a little more newsworthy, like gang violence, becomes the lead or news hook. Really, nothing is that wrong with this scenario. If the story is ONLY about gang violence you would want to shoot pictures of gang violence. But if a large portion of the story is about community policing, showing that aspect of the story is still accurate and appropriate even if the lead is about something more specific and dramatic.
This is when the page designer/copy editor/headline writer can bridge the gap between the story and the pictures or make your subject look really, really bad. In the case of the Chronicle, there is nothing inaccurate on the page but the headline is about a specific aspect of the story and has nothing to do with the picture at all. Headlines are just as much for the photos as they are for the story and that concept is ignored at the subject's peril.