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Reuters "Reports" On Civilians Killed By "NATO"

This morning, Reuters is reporting on a violent incident with the headline Ten Afghan “civilians” killed in NATO airstrike.

This headline leaves me wondering what the difference between is between “civilians” and civilians. 5 of the “civilians” killed were children… or were they “children”? Were they only “killed”, rather than being killed? Did they “live” in “Afghanistan”, or did they live in Afghanistan?

Reuters might have thought to put the word “airstrike” in quotes, too. “Airstrike” is a word journalists use for a bombing by somebody they like. When a bombing is done by somebody journalists don’t approve of, their articles simply use the word “bombing”.

5 thoughts on “Reuters "Reports" On Civilians Killed By "NATO"”

  1. Jeff says:

    Unlike most news organizations, Reuters has a very strict policy requiring the use of objective language (It’s similar to Wikipedia’s ‘WP:NPOV’ policy). They’re very careful to use quotes when they’re using a source’s exact words concerning something that wasn’t independently verified; In this case, that the people killed were civilians, not militants.

    They do the same thing on the other side of the coin; If an official says “ten terrorists were killed in X attack,” Reuters will use “terrorists” in quotes.

  2. Peregrin Wood says:

    So, why does Reuters use the non-neutral word “airstrike”?

    Is is really neutral to suggest that children are reasonably suspected to be combatants?

    If Reuters is really just being strict, why didn’t it place quotes around the word Taliban? Why only cast doubt on one side’s assertion of identity of the dead?

  3. Peregrin Wood says:

    Jeff, note the lack of quotation marks in the Reuters article With he headline: U.S. drones attack militants in Pakistan, Yemen, at

    There was no independent confirmation that the killed were in fact militants. Reuters puts civilians in quotes, but not militants.

    Not a strict policy there, and not objective.

    1. Jeff says:

      I guess I’m not sure what word more objectively describes the event when someone uses an airplane to strike a target. I believe when most people hear bombing, they thing of a B-52, whereas airstrike is more targeted; say, a hellfire missile. In e hyper-linked article, they didn’t need quotes because they explicitly said “suspected al Qaeda targets” in the lede. This was bolded in the full web page version of the article, as opposed to the plain text mobile version you linked to.

      I guess I mainly just wanted to make clear that they weren’t using scare quotes. I really do believe that Reuters is probably one of the best news services available. Too often now, what we call news is simply entertainment. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, on any hour long cable “news” show (haha, see what I did there), the anchors spend about 30 seconds telling you ‘what’ happened, 40 minutes telling you how whatever happened was the fault of the Republicans/Obama or whoever that station’s “other” is (with, of course, 20 minutes of commercials).

      Jumping on Reuters for this when Fox News and MSNBC are around seems like telling your wife the eggs are burning when, in fact, the whole kitchen is on fire.

      (Disclaimer: That last sentence is an expression. I have no idea what your sex, marital status, or sexual orientation is, and don’t care :D).

  4. Bill says:

    I’m a pretty big fan of BBC’s web news site…except “their” bizarre “and” rampant use of quotation “marks” in headlines drives me “nuts.” I’m wondering if this is a “British” thing us uhmurcans just don’t “get” (Reuters is British, “too”)?

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