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August 10, 2018 11:03 am

A Night of Rockets and Headline Fails

avatar by Pesach Benson

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An Israeli policeman surveys the scene where a rocket exploded in the southern city of Sderot, Aug. 8, 2018. Photo: Reuters/ Amir Cohen.

Residents of southern Israel spent Wednesday night in bomb shelters as Palestinians fired a heavy barrage of rockets and mortars (nearly 200, according to the most recent numbers I saw). The IDF retaliated with air strikes on more than 100 Hamas terror sites.

As expected, we came across a few headline fails. Headlines matter — because many people don’t read articles, and just skim their newspaper, website, or social media feed. Headlines also matter because studies show that they frame the way that people read and remember a story. So if a headline omits key information or context, it ultimately misinforms readers. (For a fuller treatment on this, see Why Headlines Matter).

A lot of social media outrage over this latest anti-Israel coverage was directed at BBC News. Israeli officials said they will lodge a formal complaint. For example, this headline was subsequently changed:

But this was only one example. The below Irish Times headline said nothing about the rocket fire:

 

The Sydney Morning Herald and its sister paper, The Age, republished a New York Times dispatch. The Times’ original headline was perfectly reasonable — but headline writers for Fairfax Media, the parent company of both Australian papers, clearly missed the plot. Compare the two.

The below headline from The Independent could be understood to mean that the escalation began when Enas Khamas and her daughter were killed during an airstrike.

Editors following the dictum of “if it bleeds, it leads,” and insisting on referring to the mother and child’s death, would do well to read The Daily Telegraph. I’m not a fan of long headlines that cram in too much info, but at least it’s more balanced:

Not all of the headlines we saw were bungled. Hopefully, editors at the BBC, Irish Times, Independent, and Sydney Morning Herald will learn from some of these headers.

This article was originally published at HonestReporting.

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