Accurate headlines?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on October 10, 2012

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-Read the excerpt below from HonestReporting.com's Simon Plosker.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

From a post by HonestReporting.com’s Simon Plosker (original post date 9/23/12):

On Friday, Sept. 21, a terror attack on the Egyptian border resulted in the deaths of an Israeli soldier and three terrorists. According to the IDF [Israeli Defense Force], the amount of weaponry on the terrorists’ bodies indicated that they had intended to carry out a major attack on Israeli soil.

But how did some of the media report on the incident?

One important piece of context that appears to have been omitted from almost all of the coverage did appear in the Irish Times:

According to an initial investigation carried out by the Israeli army, the gunmen opened fire when a number of soldiers left their post to offer water to African migrants who had reached the border after crossing the Egyptian Sinai.

Three militants emerged from behind a cliff and opened fire on Israeli troops who were in the area to protect construction workers building the new security fence which will run along the entire 266km border. The army said the militants had monitored the group of 15 Africans and opened fire when several soldiers left their post to offer them water.

So the terrorists took advantage of the basic humanity of [Israeli] soldiers, who, despite orders to apprehend or prevent African migrants from infiltrating the Israeli border, still treat these people like human beings, offering them aid.

But why would the media wish to convey such an image of Israeli soldiers when it doesn’t fit with the accepted narrative [of the mainstream media that Israel is always the aggressor]?

Most disturbingly, [British newspaper] The Guardian ran with an Associated Press report in the immediate aftermath of the event. Perhaps the AP could be forgiven for failing to mention the killing of an IDF soldier in addition to the terrorists due to a lack of information at that time. There is, however, no excuse for The Guardian not to update their coverage of the story once further details became available.

Instead, the last thing that Guardian readers are exposed to is this headline:

ISRAELI FORCES KILL THREE EGYPTIAN ‘MILITANTS’ IN BORDER SKIRMISH

The headline is misleading on so many levels:

  • By placing the entire emphasis on Israeli forces killing Egyptian “militants,” it implies that the [Israeli soldiers] were the instigators and the aggressors in the incident when, in fact, the opposite was the case.
  • Why is the word “militants” placed in quotation marks? Putting aside the issue of whether they should be referred to as terrorists, what exactly are they when they are armed to the teeth with weapons and opening fire on Israeli soldiers? They sure aren’t civilians.
  • The word “skirmish” significantly downplays the seriousness of the incident.
  • How does The Guardian know that the terrorists were Egyptian? Not even the IDF or Egyptian security forces have positively identified the assailants, who could also conceivably be Palestinians from Gaza.

Questions

1.  Why is it important for the media to provide accurate headlines for every news article?

2.  Why do you think The Guardian chose the headline they used?


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.