Media Watchdog Demands Accountability From CBS Over ‘Misleading’ Headline on Terrorist Attack, Even After It Was Changed
A watchdog organization called on the public on Thursday to join a campaign to “demand accountability” from a major media outlet in relation to its Israel reportage.
HonestReporting circulated an “Action Alert” on social media in the wake of the publication of what it has deemed an egregiously misleading headline placed by CBS News on its story about Wednesday’s terrorist attack at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, in which 19-year-old Israel Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen was killed and her comrade, Ravit Mirilashvili, was seriously wounded.
In the course of the attack, perpetrated by three West Bank Palestinians armed with knives, guns and pipe bombs — purportedly with the intention to inflict large-scale carnage — the terrorists were shot and killed by Israeli security forces.
“3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on,” the headline read.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Government Press Office and the Prime Minister’s Office together pressured to have the “biased and dishonest” headline changed, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The headline was subsequently altered twice. The first time, about an hour and a half after the first one appeared, it was changed to: “Israeli police kill 3 alleged Palestinian attackers.”
Its final version, according to The Post, was: “Palestinians kill Israeli officer, wound another before being killed.”
HonestReporting says this is not sufficient, because “even though the headline was updated after CBS heard from outraged viewers, the question remains: How could a major news organization like CBS News write and then publish such a misleading headline?”
HonestReporting explained, “The most important component of a news story may very well be the headline. In fact, most people only skim headlines to get their news. That is why it is critical that headlines be accurate, from the moment the story is first published. When it comes to Palestinian terror against Israelis, this is often not the case.”
The appeal to the public to complain about what the watchdog considers to be an ongoing violation of the outlet’s journalistic ethics says, “Please sign our letter to CBS News President David Rhodes demanding accountability for their coverage of Israel.”
The letter in question reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Rhodes:
Your headline on February 3, 2016 describing a Palestinian terrorist attack which resulted in the death of one Israeli and the wounding of two others was “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.” This headline was completely misleading as it ignored the most crucial fact of the incident: That the Palestinians were terrorists who were trying to kill Israelis.
We understand that the headline was updated later on, but we demand to know how the original headline was published on your website. We also would like to know what steps you will take to ensure that the same problem does not occur again.