At least 43 people were killed by a double suicide bombing in a residential area of Beirut yesterday, an attack for which ISIL has since claimed responsibility.
The New York Times initially reported the story with this headline, causing an uproar on Twitter. Reuters also ran with a similar headline.
ISIS blows up crowd of civilians in Beirut and this is the headline pic.twitter.com/mbxYAo43uk
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) November 12, 2015
The headline came under fire because it implied all the people in the residential area were somehow associated with Hezbollah, therefore implying that they may have been militants instead of civilians.
Roqayah Chamseddine, a Lebanese-American journalist, says the use of the phrase “[Hezbollah] stronghold” creates a “fabricated picture of what exists on the ground.”
“That language is meant to show that what is in essence a simply poor neighborhood is some sort of military compound,” Chamseddine says. “While there are many [Hezbollah] supporters in the southern district of Beirut, the idea that it is a [Hezbollah] bastion is an outright lie.”
Many others argued the headline was inappropriate.
The NYT term “Hezbollah stronghold” shows dehumanizing & flawed facts–NYT needs "mindset" reset, not headline reset https://t.co/MCdnHy6wgP
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) November 13, 2015
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) November 13, 2015
The New York Times has since changed the headline on the article to “ISIS Claims Responsibility for Deadly Blasts in Southern Beirut.” The journalist behind the article also admitted the error and apologized.
.@snarwani you are correct. The characterization is not meant to diminish civilian casualties. I've corrected it. Thanks.
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) November 12, 2015
The RRJ contacted editors at both papers via email at 7:50 p.m. Thursday evening asking why they chose the headline, and if they’re willing to change it to something more accurate. The Globe and Mail editors altered their headline at 8:36 p.m., but have not yet responded to the email request.
The Toronto Star editors have not yet altered their headline or responded to the email. Any responses received will be added to this post.
About the author
Davide is the blog editor of the spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. He also works as an associate editor for the Islamic Monthly. Davide's articles have appeared in numerous publications including Al Jazeera America, The Globe and Mail and the National Post.