As news spread of the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander General Qassam Soleimani, the Washington Post published the following headline: “Breaking news: Airstrike at Baghdad airport kills Iran’s most revered military leader, Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi state television reports.”
Although the headline referenced Iranian state television reports of the commander’s death, the headline editorialized the commander’s passing.
The Washington Post has done the same before when it eulogized the former leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a headline calling him an “austere religious scholar.”
Baghdadi was notorious for human rights abuses, approving the torture and execution of prisoners, among other allegations from the international community, which the Washington Post headline neglected to include.
U.S. government sources have told the media that Soleimani was responsible for hundreds of American military service members’ deaths spanning decades due to Iran’s practice of supporting anti-American militia and terrorist cells throughout the Middle East. Yet the Washington Post felt that quoting Iranian state television’s description of the deceased general was more appropriate than describing Solemani’s role in hundreds of Americans’ deaths.
Headlines may not be the end-all source of information, but they play a key role in determining media coverage and public perception.