Accountability Journalism

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on January 14, 2009

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Directions

-Read the excerpt below (from James Taranto's "Best of the Web" posted at OpinionJournal.com on Dec. 8)
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

An Associated Press headline asks, “Blackwater Guards: Mercenaries or Decorated Vets?” The first paragraph, however, asserts as fact that they are decorated vets:

Defense attorneys on Saturday lambasted U.S. indictments against decorated war veterans for deadly 2007 shootings as Iraqis welcomed the charges against five Blackwater guards in a case that fueled anti-Americanism and roiled diplomacy with Baghdad.

The third paragraph reiterates the point: “Each man has received honors for his service in some of the world’s most dangerous places, from Bosnia and Afghanistan to Iraq.”

As for “mercenaries,” they would not seem to fit the dictionary definition, at least the one that applies specifically to the military, to wit: a soldier hired into foreign service. The defendants are all Americans who worked for an American company under contract with the American government.

The subject of the story, then, is not whether they are “mercenaries” or “decorated vets,” but rather that they are going on trial to determine whether they committed crimes. Why couldn’t the AP just write a straight headline making that clear?

Read the original post at OpinionJournal.com.  Scroll down for “Accountability Journalism.”

Questions

1.  Why is it important for a news organization to provide an accurate headline for every news article?

2.  Why do you think the AP chose to print the headline “Blackwater Guards: Mercenaries or Decorated Vets?”


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1. Headlines can greatly influence readers’ opinions about the news. The importance of an accurate headline is that most people don’t read every word of every article; they often just skim the headlines. Therefore, those who read just a headline are not accurately informed when the headline misrepresents the story.  

2. Opinion question. Answers vary.