How to Assess If Coverage of a Terror Attack is Fair

Is the terror attack reported?

Is the headline appropriate? 

– Does it identify the terrorist, e.g. as Islamic Jihad, Palestinian or Arab? A clear headline would be: “Islamic Jihad Bomber Murders 5 at Israeli Mall”?  Or does it just refer to a generic bomber, e.g. “Bomber Kills 5 at Mall in Israel”.

– Is it accurate? For example, the Associated Press (AP) has twice used the inaccurate phrase “Israeli suicide bomber” to describe a Palestinian terrorist. 

– Is the headline in the active tense (Terrorist Murders 5 at Israeli Mall) or is it in the passive tense (e.g. 5 Killed at Mall in Israel), with the terrorist or bombing perhaps not even mentioned?  

If there is a photo, is it appropriate?

Are photos of the victims (or their families), the bombing scene, or of victims’ funerals?  Or are the photos of the bomber and his family?  If they do publish a photo of the bomber and/or his family, do they at least balance it with a photo of a victim and/or his family?

Do they use terror terminology? 
-Do they anywhere use the words “terror attack” “terrorism” “terrorist” or “terror group”? Or do they use euphemisms such as “incident” “operation” “militant” “activist” or “militant organization”?

-If the paper doesn’t use any terror terminology for this attack, is it an example of a double standard? Did they use terror terminology in other terrorist attacks where the victims were not Israelis, such as in England or Bangladesh? 

For example, on November 30, 2005, a photo caption in the NY Times (pg A3) read:

Terrorists believed to belong to an Islamic extremist group staged twin attacks in Bangladesh yesterday…” But in the Times article about the December 5, 2005 terror attack in Netanya, the only terror terminology used was when the Israelis or Palestinian spokespersons were being quoted.

When reading about terror attacks, particularly about those in places other than in Israel, if you notice your paper using terror terminology, be sure to save the examples, in case they fail to also use it for terror attacks against Israelis.

If there is a human interest segment of the article, is it about one of the victims or about the bomber? Is there a personal interest angle on any of the dead or wounded victims?

Be sure to contact your newspaper editor if the terror attack is not reported, doesn’t contain any terror terminology, contains an inappropriate headline, or features sympathetic photos or stories about the bomber and his family instead of the victims and their families. 

Please send us blind copies of your letter(s) to: [email protected]

Comments are closed.