Context-Free Headlines

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on March 12, 2014

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

Not everybody reads articles. You just see headlines as you quickly skim your news sites and social media feeds.

Which is why this AP headline contains all the info most people will know about yesterday’s incident at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.

ap-headline
You have to read the article to find out that Raed Zueter tried to grab a gun from a soldier.

“The terrorist ran toward soldiers yelling ‘Allahu akbar’ attempting to seize their weapons,” the Israeli military said. “The soldiers felt an immediate threat to their lives and fired toward his lower extremities. The suspect then began to strangle a soldier and the force resorted to firing again.”

AFP’s no better.  The headline reads:

Israeli troops kill Jordanian judge at border crossing

While Zueter’s death has whipped up a predictable firestorm in Jordan, sensationalized headlines like these only inflame tensions [between Israel and Palestinians] even more.

Whether you read your local paper online, a national news organization or online only news, this is the impression a person skimming the headlines would be left with:

TribLive (Pittsburgh Tribune) – AP story:
Israelis kill Jordanian judge at border checkpoint

San Antonio Express-News (mysanantonio) – AP story:
Israelis shoot, kill Jordanian judge at border

Washington state’s Tri-City Herald – AP story:
Israelis shoot, kill Jordanian judge at border

CTPost (Connecticut Post) – AP story:
Israelis shoot, kill Jordanian judge at border

ABC News – AP story:
Israelis Shoot, Kill Jordanian Judge at Border

Google News – AFP story:
Israeli troops kill Jordanian judge at border crossing

YahooNews – AFP story:
Israeli troops kill Jordanian judge at border crossing

Questions

NOTE: A news agency (AP, AFP, Reuters) is an organization of journalists established to supply news reports to news organizations: newspapers, magazines, and radio and television broadcasters. Such an agency may also be referred to as a wire service, newswire or news service.  The major news agencies generally prepare hard news stories and feature articles that can be used by other news organizations with little or no modification, and then sell them to other news organizations.

1. After reading the headline, what feeling did you have about the Israeli troops?

2. Did your view change after reading the whole story? Explain your answer.

3. Why is it important for news stories to provide accurate headlines? 


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
























Answer(s)

1. Opinion question. Answers vary.

2. Opinion question. Answers vary.

3. 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.