Headlines to news articles are an interesting phenomenon. At first glance, their objective seems quite clear: an attempt to distill an entire article down to just a couple of words to impart meaning. In truth, headlines are much more than that. They can be used to entice us to read the full article, sway our opinion on the article, or make us chuckle. In addition, anyone who writes headlines has a secondary goal-to include a play on words: “Transportation Bill Faces Curves in the Road,” or “Trying to See Clearly Through the Issue of Smog.”
It’s almost an art form. I mention this for an important reason. I would like you to remain vigilant as our national newspapers and media sensationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with severely biased headlines. These headlines are not used to pique interest in an article, but are used to project a biased point of view about the article, and are very often misleading.
The crux of the matter is that, unfortunately, headlines are often the only piece of an article that people read. Once read, they can’t be unread, and they may be the only piece of “news” someone absorbs about a topic. How many times have you read a headline that says something like “Israel Strikes Key Targets in Gaza,” and it’s not until the second or third paragraph that the article bothers to mention that Israel’s decision was a response to 90 rockets fired from Gaza. Within the past few weeks, from the New York Times, AP, USA Today and other perceived trusted sources, I have seen armed Hamas terrorists referred to as “protestors”; read “Damage Reportedly Caused by Rockets Fired from Gaza” (reportedly, really?); and “Battle Weary Hamas Gives Peaceful Protest a Chance,” with an article about the use of “only” fire kites, rocks and Molotov cocktails.
These headlines are written for one reason: to offer false and/or misleading information. Analogous to testimony in a court that is stricken from the record, it was still heard so it still has an impact. That is why it was stated, because it can never truly be withdrawn.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) is a great watchdog organization that responds daily to this type of falsification. As a community in support of Israel, however, we cannot just rely upon them. We, too, need to let editors know we see their paper’s bias. A news source that claims to be neutral should be accountable for strategic misrepresentations. Send a quick note to the editor when you see a misleading headline; call them out. I do every few weeks. Your note doesn’t need to be long or detailed, just an indication that you are questioning their integrity. The damage has already been done, so the ultimate goal is to change behavior rather than correct an individual headline.
Talking about bias, as the AJT discusses 18 under 18, I have my own nomination.
My youngest daughter, Hannah, having just turned 18, graduated from Weber High School this past month! I couldn’t be prouder and want to make sure to offer a shout-out and mazel tov. She, as well as close friend Miles Barkowitz, will be heading to College of Charleston in a few weeks. One thing I know: CofC graduates are passionate about their alma mater; I believe Hannah and Miles will toe the line.
More than inheriting the world, this group of 18 under 18, along with all the other graduating classes, will be inheriting our jobs, responsibilities and issues. They will determine how we live together in peace or how we debate our differences. I hope that I, and we, have done our job in preparing them. I believe we have. I have faith in my Hannah; and I have faith in our Jewish community that we have all been doing a good and conscientious job in raising the next generation. Somehow, we must help teach the broader community the importance of this task.