Written by Murtaza Hussain
At the height of the 2014 war between the Israeli military and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, the New York Times ran an article headlined, “Israel Says That Hamas Uses Civilian Shields, Reviving Debate.” It was an apparent reference to the hundreds of Palestinian civilians who had been killed in Israeli attacks by that point in the war. There was no question about who had killed them, yet the language shifted the subject to a “debate” about who was really responsible. A few weeks earlier, after an Israeli airstrike killed several Palestinian soccer fans, the Times ran the absurd title, “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup,” later amending the headline in the face of widespread disgust expressed on social media.
Headlines matter. As studies have repeatedly shown, when it comes to reaching the general public, the words at the top of the page might be as important, if not more, than the text of articles themselves — to the chagrin of many writers. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict, inappropriate, misleading, and biased headlines like those that appeared in the New York Times during 2014 Gaza War have been all too common.
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