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Israelis react and run for cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Nov. 15, 2012. (NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)
Israelis react and run for cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Nov. 15, 2012. (NIR ELIAS/REUTERS)

Public editor: When headlines go awry Add to ...

It is tough to write a good headline. As you may know, writers don’t craft the headlines on their stories. Copy editors, often in the rush of meeting a deadline, must find a few snappy words that sum up a story accurately and entice you to read more through compelling word choices or even humour at times.

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Recently, there have been two headlines in the paper and one online that have fallen short of the standards.

In the Saturday paper, the headline on a profile of singer Michael Bublé was a cringe-inducing one more worthy of a teen magazine than The Globe and Mail. “Michael Bublé’s charm offensive. Those eyes. That hair. Oh, and there was something about a Christmas album. Marsha Lederman crushes on Canada’s dreamiest crooner”.

Ms. Lederman, an experienced arts correspondent did no such thing. She wrote a profile on the singer and paints a picture of a charming man with a sense of humour, describing him as “warm and funny and self-deprecating.”

No gushing, no description of hair or eyes. The online headline is much better: “Meet Michael Bublé, uncensored.”

On a more serious subject, there have been a number of comments today and last week about Middle East coverage.

This is a complex issue that requires highly knowledgeable and skilled journalists to produce coverage that is fair, accurate and balanced. I do not purport to be someone who is an expert in the field, but fortunately The Globe’s foreign editor Craig Offman and Middle East correspondent Patrick Martin both are. The trouble came in headlines both in the paper and online.

Last Thursday’s centre pages of the A section carried the large, bold headline: Shattered peace. Given the actions by Hamas in preceding weeks and months, was it really peace and could you say it had been shattered by the Israeli assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari? The headline on the online version of the story was much better and more accurate: Slaying of Hamas commander threatens fragile Middle East peace.

This morning, an online headline was changed after readers noted it was wrong. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated the civilian death count was 94; the story stated 50 of the dead Palestinians are civilians.

Still on the Middle East, I also received two letters from readers wondering whether the photo on Friday’s front page of the newspaper (see the photo attached to this blog post) was staged. It is absolutely unacceptable for The Globe and Mail or any of the professional news wire services it uses to alter news photos in any manner. This photo was shot by a Reuters news agency photographer in the region. It was a very interesting picture showing a woman in fatigues comforting a very distressed woman (also wearing what looks like a green uniform) sitting outside a simple house with two men looking up to the sky and another woman rushing a baby indoors. The cutline says: “Israelis react as a siren warns of incoming rockets in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday.” This was a strong news photo and there were many other versions of the scene taken at the same time. I can reassure those readers that newspapers and news services do not use staged news photos.

Please comment below or feel free to email me on this or any other subject at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

 

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