BBC News: telling the end of a story first

The morning of Monday, October 22nd saw a mortar attack on a routine Israeli army patrol near the border fence close to Nir Am, to which the IDF responded.  In addition, rocket attacks were launched from the Gaza Strip on civilian communities in southern Israel and the IDF later responded again.  

However, one would have to read down to the fifth out of eight paragraphs in the BBC report on the subject to find out anything about the rocket attacks aimed at civilians, because both the headline and the strap line deal exclusively with the IDF response. 

Despite having already identified one of the members of the targeted rocket-launching cell as a member of Hamas and another as a member of the PRC, the report then goes on to state that:

“Militant factions other than Hamas have carried out a lot of the recent rocket attacks against Israel, although Hamas’ armed wing was involved in firing a barrage of mortars and rockets earlier this month.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, one of the deceased is Abed Arahman Abu Jalala (26) – a battalion commander with Izz-a-Din-al-Qassam. Another is Yasser Tarabin of the PRC and a third man has been named as Eahad Abu Shkafa who was with Abu Jalala at the time and may also be a member of Hamas. 

The BBC did not report on the subsequent statement put out by Hamas’ Izz-a-Din-al-Qassam brigades which declared that “The Zionist enemy continues in its crimes and its aggression against our land and our nation and does not cease to spill blood. The crime of the enemy will not pass without reaction; the Zionists will pay a high price.”

There is significance in the order of reporting a sequence of events. Beginning with the end of a story (for example, Israeli air strikes on terror cells) is not conducive to the public’s clear understanding of cause and effect, especially in such a complex area as the Middle East. In a world in which news is distributed via the internet to audiences around the world – not necessarily with English as a first language – and in which time-poor readers often skim headlines and strap lines rather than reading entire articles in full, the choice of headline and the sequence in which the report is written is of importance to the reader’s understanding of the story. 

For some reason, the ‘last – first’ method of reporting appears to be very popular with Middle East journalists in general, especially when dealing with Israeli responses to rocket fire or terror attacks. Though this style of reporting is by no means exclusive to BBC employees, it is they who are charged with ensuring that the BBC “gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news”. That obligation to accuracy and increased understanding is not aided by the recounting of an event in reverse order. 

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