1. Never blame America’s greatest ally. Suggest instead that bad stuff just happens. Gaza can wake to a sea of rubble, airstrikes may end in civilian casualties, and evictions might become the focus of conflict, but you shouldn’t distract readers with misleading terms such as Israel or Israeli.
2. But don’t get carried away! Surveys show that readers are uncomfortable with missiles that can find patrons at beachside cafes.
3. Always assign blame when Israelis suffer. Of course, Tel Aviv beachgoers take cover as rockets are fired from Gaza! What else are they supposed to do? Cheer from plastic chairs while eating popcorn? That’s so 2014!
4. Don’t compare death tolls. For instance, when reporting more than 30 dead in Gaza and Israel, do not break down deaths by side. It’s tacky. At the end of a brief war, your headline shouldn’t note that 95 percent of the dead are Palestinian or that more than a quarter are children. Every life is precious, no matter what its age, nationality or secret hummus recipe.
5. You care about human beings. So use your headlines to tell their stories! How does one experience an airstrike? What if a canceled flight led to an unexpected nine days in Gaza? Remember, not all of the conflict’s victims live in the Middle East. Isn’t the identity crisis of those right here in America just as traumatic?
6. Never include historical background. It’s boring, confusing, or both, especially with big words like occupation, illegal settlements, or international law. Palestinians can go on strike and the war may deepen a humanitarian crisis, but readers don’t need a headline to tell them why. (One exception: background is totally okay if Donald Trump is to blame.)
7. Pro tip: Clickbaity headlines can be fun and terrifying at the same time! Think: What to Know About Gaza’s Rocket Arsenal.
8. Israeli and massacre or atrocities in the same headline is semantic nonsense.