Public Editor

August 14, 2014

Iraq headline asserted Pentagon’s position too directly

Writing headlines is as much art as anything else. But one in the print edition today struck two readers wrong, and I understand why.

Journalists are supposed to be skeptical of power, particularly that held by the government and the military. I understand why two readers today objected to a headline on the front page of The Kansas City Star’s print edition.

A story from McClatchy’s Washington Bureau (not available in the same form on looked at whether the military should mount a rescue mission for Yazidi refugees trapped in the mountains of northern Iraq.

The story notes that the Pentagon has concluded the refugees’ numbers are too small to justify what could be a risky mission.

One can argue the weight of these decisions of human lives reasonably. But I understand this reader’s complaint about how the story was displayed in the paper:

“Why does the headline just say, ‘Risky refugees isn’t necessary?” he asked. “It should have said, maybe, ‘according to the Pentagon’ or something. This just looked like (The Star) was saying, “Yes, that’s right.’”

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