Haditha headlines

Lovely day again here in Carolina—at least it was until I read this headline on the front page of the N&O:

Report details civilians' deaths in Marine raids.

The story, from the Washington Post's Saturday edition, opens with this:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post.

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad's leader, shot the men one by one after Marines ordered them out of a white taxi in the moments after the explosion, which killed one Marine and injured two others, witnesses told investigators. Another Marine fired rounds into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

"The taxi's five occupants exited the vehicle and, according to U.S. and Iraqi witnesses, were shot by Wuterich as they stood, unarmed, next to the vehicle approximately ten feet in front of him," said a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on the incident that runs thousands of pages.

What happened in Haditha after that gets even worse.

Here is the Post's headline on the same story:

Death in Haditha
Eyewitness Accounts in Report Indicate Marines Gunned Down Unarmed Iraqis in the Aftermath of a Roadside Bombing in 2005

Note that in the Post headline, there is a reference to the fact that eyewitnesses said Marines gunned down five civilians. This is an ugly story—with photos—and the headline gets at the heart of it.
Note that the N&O's headline on the same story is vague, uses the eye-glazing "Report says" and the big verb is "details." The headline writers also don't seem to believe you're smart enough to remember the word Haditha, which is about to become—in the endless Iraq/Vietnam comparisons—synonymous with Mi Lai.
So is the N&O doing anyone a favor by softening up the headline on a terrible story? Does the headline convey any sense of the horror surrounding one of the saddest and dishonorable moments of the war?
I'm not saying they should bash the Marine Corps, which is full of honorable men and women who serve in difficult circumstances and risk their lives every day. But when someone kills—executes—unarmed civilians under the flag of my country, they should be held to account. At least that's what the report says.

The N&O like a lot of papers is in the position of having supported the war and cheered it on until even they figured out how much we were lied to and how much that sucks. Maybe I should be patting them on the back for even mentioning this on the front page on a Sunday, but they've got a lot of truth to catch up with and they're still pulling their punches when it comes to laying out the reality of this war. You may think I'm being picky about a headline, but I know a coat of extra varnish when I see it.

So, I'm curious whether other papers in the state are even running this story. Let me know if you've seen one.

Other links:
E&P: When the press dropped the ball on Haditha
NYT: U.S. Inquiry Backs Charges of Killing by Marines in Iraq
North County Times (San Diego Calif.) Haditha series
Asheville Citizen Times: Official: Evidence doesn't back Marines

Comments

The N&O softening another headline

I don't think you're being picky. I think the N&O plays lots of games with their headlines.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Load the C-130's and leave the mainstream media in Baghdad?

I think the N&O plays lots of games with their headlines.* SD

They [ all mainstream establishment media do]

Load the C-130's with our troops and out now!!!!!!! and cut off Blackwater funding....

Charlotte Observer is even softer

You wouldn't know it referred to the same story or part of the same story....

Marines' claim unsupported
Defense official: No info shows 5 Iraqis were shot trying to flee blast scene



Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Further Explanation

The headline is awkward. Read through too quickly and it makes it sound like nobody was shot instead of they weren't shot fleeing. This is not only a soft headline, it's a confusing one.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The N&O has miles to go

I really used to admire the paper way back when (10 years ago). But they have lost their moral compass. Their editorial page cheer-leading for Bush's War was a complete abrogation of responsibility and they are nowhere near getting their act cleaned up.

And it's not just that Steve Ford is a weak-kneed, opinion-free editorial page editor. The whole culture has shifted to obscure and obfuscate. There are a few bright and dedicated folks left, but they're swimming against the tide of mediocrity . . . and they're losing.

If the newspaper fired Ford, I'd subscribe again as a leap of faith. I love newspapers and I miss reading the old N&O. But the current paper is just too, too sad.

numbness

I remember a desk job where I had to write headline after headline about the war in what was Yugoslavia. (It was very hard to get any information into a headline that had the phrase ex-Yugoslavia or former Yugoslavia in it.) I felt myself getting numb to what was going on there. That's what papers—and wire editors—have to guard against.
The N&O and the Char-O still do excellent work in some areas, but save Jay Price's reporting and some of the Knight-Ridder Baghdad bureau work, they've been behind the curve on Iraq since jump street.
This has been a long war already and a there's lot of numbness to it. If there ever was a time for them to bear down on war coverage in Iraq and at home, it's now. This is when we all need to be paying close attention to the mismanagement, graft, injustices and real human consequences from Fayetteville to Falljha. We need to do that so it doesn't happen again.

Just forwarded your comments

to a few folks at the N&O. Thanks for the insight.

You're right about this:

If there ever was a time for them to bear down on war coverage in Iraq and at home, it's now. This is when we all need to be paying close attention to the mismanagement, graft, injustices and real human consequences from Fayetteville to Falljha. We need to do that so it doesn't happen again.

Why am I not optimistic?