Public Editor

July 16, 2014

Questioning terminology in Israel/Hamas conflict

Readers have specific — but highly individual — thoughts about how the conflict between Israel and Hamas is being covered. And they go through the language used with a fine tooth comb.

The most common thing I’m hearing from readers about coverage in The Star and over the past few days concerns coverage of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

A note: The Star doesn’t cover topics like these directly, obviously, so we’re talking about content from the wire services. While editors in Kansas City can and often do alter wire text, their involvement isn’t as hands-on as stories generated by Star staffers.

“There is no mention at all of how this started,” emailed one reader, who cited a story Sunday that didn’t include extensive background. “Hamas (started) shooting rockets into populated areas. Israel warned Hamas for days to stop.”

Similarly, another wrote: “Forget for the moment that this ‘offensive’ is actually part of an on-again off-again battle. Without takings sides, everything I have read about this latest exchange suggests that the first rockets were fired by the militants.” He felt the word “offensive” isn’t accurate to describe Israel’s action, which he considers more defensive.

On the other side, readers sympathetic to Hamas’ cause have told me they think the news coverage should emphasize the imbalance of power. “How can you say (Israel) is retaliating, when they have the power to do everything Hamas has done ten times over?” asked one caller. She feels the news coverage hasn’t shown that Israel “acts like a bully.”

Are we going to solve these questions in Kansas City? Obviously not. But these subjective calls about the coverage are a good reminder that readers pay close attention to how the news is reported and demand fair and impartial language.

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