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Media Critique #20 - Toddler 'Dies'

Media Critique #20 - Toddler 'Dies'

Reporting a murder in the passive form changes the meaning entirely. Someone at the Associated Press tried to pull a fast one.


Ten-month old Shalhevet Pass was in her mother's arms when she was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper yesterday. Can there be a more abominable act than a sniper placing a baby's head in the crosshairs of his scope, squeezing the trigger, and reveling in a successful infanticide?

Imagine the surprise, therefore, when The Washington Post's website ran the following headline:

Associated Press, Monday, March 26, 2001; 5:22 p.m. EST

The child did not just "die" as if she was afflicted with some disease or old age. More accurately, Shalhevet Pass was murdered, shot, gunned down, or assassinated by a killer, gunman, terrorist, or sniper.

An important point of order: reporters rarely write their own headlines. An editor was responsible for the passive spin on Shalhevet's death.

When Monday's headline appeared, a representative immediately called the Associated Press International Editor in New York to complain. The representative then immediately called to file a complaint with The Washington Post ombudsman.

Ninety minutes later, an updated headline appeared on the Post's website:

"Jewish Baby Shot Dead on West Bank"

In the past some newspapers and broadcasters use the active verb when dealing with Palestinian casualties ("Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli soldiers") and the passive verb when dealing with Israeli casualties ("Israeli settler dies in drive-by shooting").

How did your local newspaper or TV station report Shalhevet's murder?

Please check out your local coverage. If you agree that it constitutes biased reporting, write a letter in your own words, or adapt the critique below.

The original Washington Post headline is still online at:

Complaints to: feedback@ap.orgom

And don't forget to preserve integrity by keeping your comments respectful.

 To the Editor of The Washington Post:

The sniper shooting of 10-month old Shalhevet Pass in her mother's arms on Monday, March 26, was a deliberate, brutal act of premeditated murder. A Palestinian sniper looked through his telescopic sight at a baby's head and shot her dead.

I was dismayed, therefore, to read The Washington Post website headline to an Associated Press story: "Jewish Toddler Dies in West Bank."

Shalhevet did not just "die" as if she were ill or old. The headline should have read "murdered" or "shot" or "killed." Why the attempt to whitewash a cold-blooded Palestinian murderer?

Who is responsible for this blatantly biased headline? And how does the Post intend to rectify the fact that this headline was seen online by thousands of people worldwide?

December 31, 1969

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Dowsen Sango, May 22, 2001 12:00 AM

Murder of the Jewish Daughter

It's disgusting that some people have no heart at all, until they can deliberately squeeze the trigger and kill an inocent child. Surely the Almighty shall recompence to the evil worker according to his work. The first thing that he has to bear in mind is that Israelis have been tortured and maimed enough and they cannot continue seeing such brutality and keep quiet.

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