Inquirer Headlines Go Easy on Terrorists

— by Sean Durns

The following “letter to the editor” was sent to The Philadelphia inquirer, but went unpublished.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reprinted an AP story entitled "American killed in Palestinian attack was peace activist" with the vague title "US Educator Dies in Israel."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reprinted an AP story entitled “American killed in Palestinian attack was peace activist” with the vague title “US Educator Dies in Israel.”

Recent Inquirer headlines U.S. Educator Dies in Israel and Israelis Kill 3 Palestinians have the potential to mislead readers by not accurately reflecting the news articles beneath.

The first article itself makes clear that American-born Israeli educator Richard Lakin did not just “die” in Israel; he was murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Lakin’s son told The New York Times his 73-year old father was the victim of Palestinian “incitement and hate.” Yet, the headline could lead readers to mistakenly infer that Lakin just happen to pass away.

Similarly, Israelis did not just happen to “kill 3 Palestinians” without justification as readers might infer from the headline. Again, as the article beneath the headline notes, three Palestinian Arab terrorists were killed by Israeli security forces after attacking Israelis, both civilian and soldiers, with knives. The headline fails to convey essential facts regarding both the chronology and causation leading to the death of the terrorists.

Space restrictions can make headline writing challenging. However, precise terminology and chronology must be used to prevent readers from drawing false inferences. We trust that in the future Inquirer headlines on contentious issues such as these will accurately represent the stories they summarize.