Friday, May 18, 2007

Do Headlines and Context Matter?

In the past few months, there has been a steady stream of Qassam rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.

The Palestinians who fire these rockets are targetting civilians in the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon.

As mentioned in a previous post, Elder of Ziyon is keeping tabs on how many of these rockets have been fired at the Israel populace:

February: 80+ rockets
March: 50+ rockets
April: 80+ rockets
Recently, the steady stream of rockets has become a deluge. From 32 in the first two weeks of May to more than 70 in three nights from May 15 through 17.

Israellycool did an excellent job of providing a comprehensive update on the attacks in recent days - see the posts for May 15, May 16 and May 17.

The purpose of these rockets is to target Israeli civilians - men, women and children - inside Israel close to the border with Gaza.

Rockets kill and injure at random.

They terrorise and traumatise Israelis even when they miss.

Every day and night for the last four months, rockets have reigned down on these communities. Is this news?

Now it has ramped up to a full-scale bombardment. Is this news?

The Palestinian terrorists have 'succeeded' in injuring scores of Israelis, some seriously. The most recent attack hit a synagogue. Is this news?

Before continuing, have a think about what the reaction would be if an Israeli missile hit a mosque while deliberately aiming at Palestinian civilians. Would that be news? Would it be covered the same way?

Now look at ABC's Middle East Conflict section.

Their list of recent headlines is:
Monday, May 14, 2007.
Four dead, 15 abducted in Gaza factional violence
Palestinian officials say four Palestinians have been killed in Gaza overnight and Hamas say 15 supporters have been abducted in the deadliest outbreak of factional fighting in the coastal strip in months.

Rival Palestinian factions agree to cease-fire: report
Egyptian mediators have reportedly brokered a cease-fire in a new flare-up of violence between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians killed despite truce
Two Palestinian gunmen have been killed in Gaza in fighting between the rival Hamas and Fatah groups, despite an Egyptian-mediated truce.

Palestinian Minister quits amid killings
Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi has resigned, rocking the two-month-old unity Government amid the biggest surge in factional fighting in months.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007.
Palestinian PM orders end to factional violence
The Palestinian Authority has ordered its security forces onto streets of Gaza to put an end to factional violence which has killed at least eight people.

Eight more dead in Gaza unrest
Eight Palestinians have been killed in clashes between members of President Mahmoud Abbas' presidential guard and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007.
More dead in further Gaza clashes
At least 13 people have been killed during a third day of renewed factional fighting in the Gaza Strip .

Egyptian official shot while monitoring Gaza 'truce'
Gunmen shot and wounded a top Egyptian official in Gaza as he tested whether a shaky cease-fire deal between feuding Fatah and Hamas loyalists was holding.

5 guards killed at Fatah official's home
Hamas gunmen have killed five guards working for a senior Fatah security official in an attack on his house in Gaza City, says a Fatah spokesman.

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Gaza erupts in fresh violence
At least 21 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday as President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas battled for control of Gaza and Israel launched a round of air strikes against Hamas.

Israeli air strikes target Hamas in Gaza
The Israeli air force has carried out a series of raids on Hamas targets in the Gaza strip killing at least three militants and wounding 20 others.

Friday, May 18, 2007.
Israeli tanks advance into Gaza Strip
About 15 Israeli tanks entered northern Gaza on Thursday, a Palestinian security source says.
Where is the news about the daily barrage of attacks on the Israeli communities in Sderot and Ashkelon? Where is the news about the injured Israelis?

The reader needs to drill into each individual article to find isolated sentences nestled deep within the paragraphs to reveal some information:
Israel was responding forcefully to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
And interestingly, the first mention is not on May 16 (accounting for the time difference) but on May 17:

While Gaza battles raged, militants have fired rockets at southern Israel, causing injuries but no deaths, in an apparent attempt to draw Israel into the fighting.
The ABC waited for two days and nights of escalated rocket attacks before making any mention at all, let alone cover the 250 rockets in the last three months.

Notice the ABC have assured the reader that injuries are not deaths. In case you did not know that, or were getting overly-concerned about the rockets.

But back to the headlines and summary lines.

On a news website, do the headlines and summary line matter less, equally or more than the content of the articles themselves?

The ABC would have to say either these headlines and summary lines matter no more than the entire article, in which case they need to explain what is their purpose, or admit they are deliberately avoiding any mention of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

This is because in all the headlines and summary lines above, there is not a single mention of a rocket attack.

Not a single mention of an injury.

Not a single mention of a property or religious building being destroyed.


According the ABC's assessment, factional violence in Gaza is more newsworthy than violence aimed at Israelis.

Now consider the coverage of the context to Israel's response to the rocket attacks on its communities.

One rocket fired at civilians is unacceptable, so what should Israel do when its citizens are threatened by scores of rockets every day?

Does Israel have a duty to protect their populace from war criminals?

Should Israel take action to eliminate the threat?

Do the rocket barrages set the context for Israel's response?

Is there any headline or summary line that gives the reader background to Israel's response to the rocket attacks from the ABC's headlines?

Should the ABC be held to a higher standard of coverage completeness when they employ the description "Complete coverage of the crisis in the Middle East" on their own website?

1 comment:

rafrafUk said...

I could not agree more with what you are saying. I actually had to reply to one of these articles in one of the free London papers this morning.