The Middle East is a complex, complicated and very sensitive part of the world for news coverage. So news media must be careful to get the facts right and be cognizant of balance at all times, writes the Globe and Mail's public editor Sylvia Stead. 

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

The Middle East is a complex, complicated and very sensitive part of the world for news coverage. So news media must be careful to get the facts right and be cognizant of balance at all times.

On Monday, The Globe and Mail made a mistake in its front-page headline. It said, “Defying Hamas, thousands flee Gaza.”

The article notes that about 10,000 people have left their homes in northern Gaza even though Hamas told them to stay. But the headline suggestion that they fled Gaza is not true and cannot be.

As a reader on social media noted, the borders are sealed and people cannot flee Gaza. “Front page headline exposes @globeandmail ignorance: Gaza’s borders are sealed; ppl fleeing home/not Gaza.”

This is especially true after the military coup in Egypt last year when the government closed a network of smuggling tunnels into the region.

There is one exception to the sealed borders: Gazans with dual citizenship can leave through the border crossing by which journalists and diplomats and aid workers enter and leave. Several hundred dual citizens have chosen to leave Gaza in the past few days.

Headlines are notoriously difficult to write. Using very few, high-impact words, the editor must try to sum up major news events in a compelling way. Still, “Defying Hamas, many flee homes in Gaza”or “Defying Hamas, thousands flee in Gaza” would have been accurate.

To continue reading this column, please go theglobeandmail.com where this was originally published.


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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.