KOSHER DELIGHT - YOUR JEWISH ONLINE MAGAZINE!
17, 2006 - יום
About the Author
Headlines are .tightly written because of space limitations.
They should, nevertheless, conform to minimum standards of journalistic
integrity. The code of ethics of the US Society of Professional Journalists
requires that headlines must not misrepresent. Nor should they oversimplify, or
highlight incidents out of context.
The following op-ed published in the
Jerusalem Post on September 12, 2006, discusses the misuse of headlines that we
encounter almost daily.
How do headlines influence our perception of reported events? We may not always
be aware that headlines don't merely report the news but, in many instances,
.influence how we evaluate it. Our impression of the relative importance of
events is colored riot only by the wording of "heads," but, more
persuasively, by their size and position. Finally, the headline influences our
decision whether or not to read the rest of the article.
Headlines assume even greater importance in today's world. The sheer volume of
news and commentary via newspapers, radio and TV, augmented by the plethora of
Web sites and blogs, is overwhelming. 'Few of us manage to completely read more
than a small selection of the articles we come across. For the rest, we skim the
When these are misleading, we are left with distorted opinions.
A TYPICAL example. On September 1, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Tel Aviv
Magistrate's Court remanded a Ramallah resident who had infiltrated the British
Embassy in Tel Aviv the previous night and threatened to kill himself if he was
not granted asylum in the United-Kingdom.
British embassy officials had invited Israeli police to enter the embassy
compound to assist. A tense six-hour stand- off ended safely when police subdued
It is revealing to compare how the Web sites of various media headlined this
The Jerusalem Post: "British Embassy infiltrator remanded."
MSNBC; "Armed man infiltrates U.K. Embassy In Israel. Commandos storm
mission, seize Palestinian threatening suicide."
CNN.com: "Israeli police storm UK embassy, capture Palestinian."
AP: "Israeli Police Storm British
BBC: "Commandos storm Tel Aviv embassy."
Washingtonpost.com: "Israelis Capture Man at British Embassy."
FOX News: "Israeli Commandos Storm British Embassy, Nab Palestinian
Gunman Demanding Asylum."
Haaretz: "Palestinian bursts into British embassy with toy gun."
USA Today: "Commandos storm British Embassy to capture armed man.
International Herald Tribune: "Israeli police storm British embassy,
capture Palestinian gunmen [sic]."
I LEAVE it to the reader to decide which of the above headlines calmly state the
facts, and which inject emotional overtones. Interestingly, only The Jerusalem
Post made it clear in the body of its report that the entire operation was
conducted at the invitation of the British embassy, contrary to the false
impression created by headlines, which suggested that "storming" was
an act of force against the sovereign territory of the British Embassy.
MISLEADING headlines are far from new. I am reminded of one of the rare
instances in which the British Guardian published an admission of an
Back in May 2004, I wrote to The Guardian about the wording of a headline:
"Hungary foils 'Jewish' terror plot," reporting that the Hungarian '
police had arrested three Arabs suspected of planning to attack a Jewish museum
I. wrote that my first reaction on reading the bold headline was increased
resentment against those troublesome Jews plotting tenor attacks in Hungary.
Only after reading the entire article did I realize that the headline was
completely misleading. The plot was not by Jews, but against Jews; a case of the
victim misrepresented as the culprit.
I did not receive a reply immediately, but after Endre Mozes, chairman of the
Take-a-Pen Web site, re-sent my complaint, lan Mayes, The Guardian's ombudsman,
ran an apology.
more articles by Maurice Ostroff
Mr. Ostroff's Website: http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com
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