Newspaper editors can never please everyone

I love it when the radical pundits of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict complain to the news media about their coverage.

A letter last week in the Gazette complains about a headline used on a story about two Israelis and two Palestinians dying: “Two Israelis, two Palestinians killed in West Bank clash.” You’ll note the article was published more than three weeks before the letter from Mike Fegelman of Honest Reporting Canada, an organization whose name sounds like they value fairness, but concentrates its efforts solely on trying to influence news coverage to make it more favourable to Israel.

The complaint in this particular case was that the headline did not make clear that the Palestinians instigated the attack and were killed in self-defence by the Israeli soldiers.

The idea that headlines should tell the whole story is a common complaint against newspapers. But headlines can’t tell the whole story by virtue of the lack of space available. If they could tell the whole story, there wouldn’t be articles underneath them.

But still, how about I suggest a headline The Gazette should have used for this brief article:

Two hero Israeli soldiers massacred by evil satanic terrorist Palestinian homicide killers in unprovoked cowardly attack, return fire in self-defence before tragically succumbing to their injuries; attackers also die in the fighting, ridding the world of two useless pieces of enemy scum

Now, that headline is a bit longer than the previous one, but it would more honestly tell the story, no?

Screw the court of law

The other complaint about The Gazette’s editing comes from both Honest Reporting and The Suburban, “Quebec’s largest English newspaper” (huh?). Both take issue with the paper’s removal of the adjective “terrorist” to describe attacks in a CanWest News Service news article.

The reason this “heavy-handed editing” (the removal of two words) happened is obvious: Despite its very public support of Israel, CanWest secretly employs Palestinian terrorist-sympathizing editors at The Gazette, who sneak into articles and try their best to skew the news against Israel.

The alternative explanation, that describing something as “terrorist” is a moral judgment and not a journalistic one (and if all Palestinian attacks are somehow by definition terrorist attacks, why do we need to add the word in the first place?) is too ludicrous to consider.

What gets me most about this argument is that it’s entirely academic in nature. Nobody seriously suggests that Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians are not terrorist in nature. Whether or not you believe the attacks are justified, or whether new Israeli settlements are justified, the nature of the attacks are very clear. It’s like arguing over whether we should call it murder when we say that a man shot his wife.

But the fact that people get so worked up over the use or non-use of a single word shows just how seriously people take this conflict and its most important front: the battle for public opinion.

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