Why Did ‘Times of Israel’ Change This Article’s Title?

Some readers and media analysts must have become really touchy lately — to the point that Times of Israel (TOI) changed the title to their article about a teacher who posted leftist materials on her Facebook timeline.

The supposedly misleading nature of many titles news sites affix to published articles has become something with which to take issue. Take, for example, Judean Rose’s post on the Elder of Zion website; the author has made a game of judging which site published particular articles based on their titles. She pointed out the problem in a recent example:

Here is a Times of Israel title from September 5: “Palestinian Family Evicted from East Jerusalem.” Compare this headline to that of the Israel National News piece on the same subject: “Arab squatters evicted from Jewish property in Jerusalem”.

And I just happened to notice that TOI changed the title of the article about the teacher in a way that totally changes its meaning. First they wrote this:

media analysis - article titles

In less than 24 hours, they changed it to this:

media analysis - article titles

They could not change the URL, however, and it remains:

media analysis - TOI changes title

Effect of Different Title

The new title prepares the reader for a totally different reading experience than that afforded by the original.

In one particular Facebook thread, the original title drew harsh criticism of Israel, one person openly admitting she was basing her opinion on the title alone, since she did not bother to actually read the article.

In the body of the article, it is clearly written that the teacher decided to quit in spite of the fact that the administration had no intention of seeing her leave:

The local authority head said that he had not intended for the teacher to resign, but had just wanted to warn her and “to pay attention to the fact that people were starting to talk, not for her to start panicking,” he told the newspaper.

He brought to her attention that parents were concerned about the leftist ideas (including support for Breaking the Silence, a highly controversial organization) she expressed on Facebook.

The initial complaint came from two parents who were concerned that the teacher was “too political,” warning other parents that she held left-wing views.

Others quickly joined the WhatsApp group discussion, with other parents accusing the teacher of going to army checkpoints in the West Bank and “spitting on the soldiers.” They also claimed that her own children didn’t serve in the IDF. Haaretz reported that both those accusations were baseless.

This clearly shows how quickly the situation degenerated. Therefore, the meeting called by the administration was clearly necessary in order to straighten out the issue:

Following threats from parents that they would send their children elsewhere, the school and the Education Ministry arranged a meeting between the teacher and the parents, at which the majority of parents expressed support for the teacher, asking her not to leave. [emphasis added]

Those who did not read the article, itself, relying only on the original title, obviously would not understand that the teacher decided to leave in spite of having been supported by most of the parents at the meeting. In no place in the article does it suggest that the parents forced her out of her job.

The reader unskilled in critical reading of news articles might have missed the nuance that stands in contrast with the original title and maintained the bias it promoted.

What inspired TOI to change the title?

Did someone complain, or did someone at TOI notice, all on their own, the total inappropriateness of the original title to the content? I have no insider information and cannot say.

Titles are an important and integral part of the articles published on news sites. This is particularly salient given that in today’s world of instant gratification and low levels of concentration and/or patience, many many people do not read more than the titles and yet may feel well informed concerning current events. News sites should at least give the reader-who-does-not-really-read a better chance by at least writing accurate titles.

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