Last week, I warned about overselling stories in headlines. This week is about underselling.
NBC went with "Pro-Palestine crowd storming airport." A bad choice of words, IMO. Already too much conflating "anti-Semitic" with "Pro-Palestine" going around without adding it to headlines.
This was basically a modern pogrom. Underselling is an understatement. There’s a reason my ancestors left Russia to come here. And that reason was on display in Dagestan
In the original story it looks like they had not confirmed if there were injuries or arrests, so I can understand the use of protest until they got more information. I am not one to criticize a decision to not publish the most inflamatory headline possible.
I'm open to hearing whether I've missed something, but I'm basically (?!) good with how the AP handled this. What you really don't want to do is have to go in the other direction -- you never want your rewrite to say "This is not as big of a deal as we originally reported that it was." So you run the risk of underselling, but underselling in the early stages of a developing story, when you don't know what you know yet, is not as bad as overselling, is I guess what I'm saying.
The decision I'd really question is the decision to use "Putin calls meeting" as the lead to a rewrite rather than a new, separate story. Even there, I could be wrong, but moving on from writethroughs to new stories is a decision you have to make sooner or later, and I would have done it then -- with enough background information from the old story so that people who were learning about this incident fresh could catch up.
As for older headlines staying on the AP stories, I don't know whether the AP should feel responsible for that. On most websites I know of, the editors at the affiliate news outlets can set the headline to auto-update when the AP headline does, and if they don't want that they have to take the responsibility for updating by hand when things change.
Also, sometimes Google is slow to catch up to these updates, if I remember correctly, so the headlines may have in fact been changed.
Generally when making a claim - and I think that's what reporting news generally is - you should have sufficient evidence to support that claim. We can accept that sufficient evidence can occasionally be wrong.
So I think it's really a question of did the AP genuinely believe that the evidence pointed convincingly to this just being a protest, and was that reading of the evidence competent. I'm not really sure of the answers there. But if they didn't believe what they were writing, or were grossly misinterpreting what was in front of them, then that was the wrong headline to start with.
I think that the AP and Times should wait until they have enough information to write their articles. Too much importance is placed on being the first to report about something. They should concentrate on accuracy and not jump the gun to be the first to report. Who cares about being first? Six year olds playing King Of The Mountain!
"Protest" seems like it's doing a lot of work in that original headline. A lot.