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When the Wash­ington Post amended its obituary over the weekend from describing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “Islamic State’s ter­rorist-in-chief” to “austere reli­gious scholar at the helm of Islamic State,” Twitter was quick to clap back with satire. 

Users par­odied the glaring bias with com­pa­rable blunders: “Adolf Hitler, pas­sionate com­munity planner and dynamic public speaker, dies at 56,” one wrote. “Mao Zedong, who saved 20 – 45 million of his own people from having to suffer through the struggle of exis­tence, dies at 82,” another tweeted. “Satan, unorthodox faith leader known for pushing back against famous wine-maker Jesus, dies at 14,” said another. And, “Genghis Khan, noted traveler, dies at 64.” 

Though the Wash­ington Post quickly changed its headline — again — to describe al-Baghdadi as the “extremist leader of the Islamic state,” the damage was already done. 

The Post’s headline was only the most recent example of public rela­tions oper­a­tions which scramble to amend the facts to atone for a political sin. 

In Sep­tember, the New York Times came under fire for an essay written by two reporters who made an unsub­stan­tiated claim of sexual mis­conduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

Everyone makes mis­takes, but this is dif­ferent. Many main­stream media outlets repeatedly fail to report the facts and the truth and instead choose their words with the goal of per­pet­u­ating the popular, polit­i­cally-correct nar­rative.

As jour­nalists, we must get the facts and interpret them wisely. We’ve lost sight of truth when we’re describing the leader of a ter­rorist orga­ni­zation as an “austere reli­gious scholar.” Though the headline could have been fac­tually correct, it’s mis­leading. If we have to run a cor­rection, our goal should be the truth. 

We’ve entered dan­gerous ter­ritory when we’re con­verting hard facts into fiction.