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Media Critiques

CBC Must Apologize for Disgraceful Headline in Jerusalem Terror Attack Coverage

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posted by Mike Fegelman

Many Canadians woke up today to the horrific news that two Palestinian terrorists had entered a Jerusalem synagogue armed with pistols, meat cleavers, knives and axes, murdering five Israelis (four rabbis and a police officer) and injuring over a half dozen others, including a Canadian-Israeli dual citizen.

How did our public broadcaster’s website cover one of the worst incidents of terror in Israel in recent years?

CBC News editors wrote the following headline to their news article, a site read by millions, and shared via its Twitter account to its 692,000 followers:

For the CBC, the fatal shooting of 2 unidentified individuals by Jerusalem police, rather than the actions of terrorists or identities of the victims was deemed more newsworthy. Despite the lead paragraph’s referring to the attackers as “suspected Palestinian men,” CBC editors chose to not include this information in its headline and perhaps worse, CBC editors’ use of the word “apparent” conveyed that this might not have even been an attack.

Though it was a breaking story at the time of the release of the CBC’s article at 1:01am today, CBC knew when releasing its article that at least 3 Israelis were wounded at the time and that Israeli police claimed the attack was terrorism. Why not at least say so in attribution? For CBC, the Israeli police’s killing of who we now know to be the attackers was definite and absolute, while the murder of innocent Israeli Jews praying in a place of worship was “apparent”. There was no mention about the backgrounds of the terrorists, or the heinous acts that they actually committed in this headline. As well, the headline could have even lead some to conclude that Israeli police killed 2 Israelis, perhaps even synagogue congregants, as the identities of the 2 who were fatally shot weren’t disclosed in this headline.

The Jerusalem Post referred to the CBC’s headline as bearing “questionable slant on its coverage.” Importantly, the Post referred to another similar instance of bias, this time by CNN:

“CNN ran a headline stating that four Israelis and two Palestinians were killed in the attack, failing to note that the two Palestinians were the terrorists.  Later, CNN apologized for the headline, writing: “As CNN updated its reporting on the terrorist attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem earlier today, our coverage did not immediately reflect the fact that the two Palestinians killed were the attackers.  We erred and regret the mistake.” 

Almost immediately after the issuance of the CBC’s initial article, Canadians and people from around the world contacted the CBC en masse expressing their disgust with the CBC’s headline. CBC’s response via its Twitter account was as follows:

Though the headline to this article now reads “Jerusalem synagogue attack kills 5; Canadian-Israeli citizen among wounded”, the CBC’s response was wholly unsatisfactory. As is commonly known, journalists must produce the most accurate story right off the bat, and provide the most important and relevant information to news consumers. In saying that the story “was changed as soon as grave situation in synagogue was clear” is a poor excuse considering that the original article itself clearly pointed to the incident being an act of terror carried out by armed Palestinian terrorists who targeted innocent Israeli Jews in a synagogue.

The CBC, like CNN, owes it to Canadians to fully explain how such a disgraceful and myopic headline got incorporated in their news coverage and disseminated wide and far. Just like CNN did, CBC should apologize for its journalistic shortcomings and must explain in detail specific actions it will take to ensure that an incident like this will never happen again.

Please send a complaint to the CBC’s Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement, Jack Nagler at: jack.nagler@cbc.ca.

 

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