People in angry crowds shout all kinds of things, as anyone who has ever covered a protest rally can tell you.
What do you quote? What do you elect not to quote? Do you quote the sane people, to make the protesters look better, more sympathetic? Do you focus on the hotheads, so that the public will know the true range of emotions and opinions present in this event and in its cause?
Recently, there was a sobering test case of this puzzle, an anti-Israel protest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that produced one of those hot -- literally -- quotes that rocketed across the Web or, at least, parts of the Web. Here's the piece of Joseph Abram's report for Fox News that was at the heart of the firestorm:
... (Some) protesters at this rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., took their rhetoric a step further, calling for the extermination of Israel -- and of Jews.
Separated by battle lines and a stream of rush-hour traffic outside a federal courthouse last week, at least 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators faced off against a smaller crowd of Israel supporters. Most of the chants were run-of-the-mill; men and women waving Palestinian flags called Israel's invasion of Gaza a "crime," while the pro-Israel group carried signs calling the Hamas-run territory a "terror state."
But as the protest continued and crowds grew, one woman in a hijab began to shout curses and slurs that shocked Jewish activists in the city, which has a sizable Jewish population.
"Go back to the oven," she shouted, calling for the counter-protesters to die in the manner that the Nazis used to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust. "You need a big oven, that's what you need," she yelled.
After that kind of language, the rest of the report is pretty predictable.
However, if you lived in South Florida and happened to read about this protest in the local Sun-Sentinel, this is what you learned about that same event and the rhetoric of the protesters. First we read this:
Protesters waving Palestinian flags and shouting "Free Palestine" squared off against supporters of Israel outside Fort Lauderdale's courthouse ... over four days of warfare in the Gaza Strip.
And later there is this:
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators called on the United States to stop aid to Israel. Ahmad Suid of Naples brought his 8-year-old son and 9- and 10-year-old daughters to the rally holding signs saying "Stop the Genocide" and "I'm not a terrorist."
"This is absolutely inhumane," Suid said. "This is a modern-day holocaust."
Now, there is a chance -- of course -- that one reporter heard the "Go back to the oven" quote and the other did not.
Still, I will raise the obvious question: Was this Holocaust reference something that worthy of news print? How about that second holocaust -- small "h" -- quote? Is there anyone else out there who thinks that journalists covering this event needed to use BOTH?