NYT Public Editor Response to Bias Criticisms in Israel Coverage: We Could Do Better

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Margaret Sullivan

The New York Times has decided to respond to criticisms over its coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict which many feel has been slanted in Favor of the Arabs. The paper’s public editor Margaret Sullivan issued a formal statement on the matter in its pages.

It is, at this point, unoriginal to say the least to point out the many anti-Israel biases in the media’s coverage of the country. This applies even for how it deals with complaints about this bias in that the media insists on pointing out that they are criticized by both sides.

In an attempt to be even handed, Sullivan dealt with criticism from both sides of the conflict saying that each one has accused the newspaper of being biased against it. “The Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, somehow manages to be — as the critics would have it — both wildly anti-Israel and practically a tool of the Israeli government, ” she wrote.

But In a great article in Forbes by Richard Behar it was pointed out that many of the Gaza foreign correspondents used by the New York Times and other media during last summer’s fighting there were actually local Arabs with pro Hamas and PLO comments and photos posted on their Facebook pages.

Sullivan, however decided to equate those complaints with ones that she received about Jewish and even Israeli citizens who work for the paper’s Jerusalem bureau.

“The matter of who covers the Middle East for The Times can be tricky. Some readers have objected to The Times’s employment of Fares Akram as a contributor because he once had a photograph of Yasir Arafat as his Facebook profile picture. (Mr. Akram has now left The Times for a job with The Associated Press.) Other readers have objected to some of the activities of the family of Isabel Kershner, who writes on contract, and whose son has begun Israeli military training and whose husband once worked for an Israeli think tank.”

Sullivan went on to say that she does not feel that the Israel/Arab conflict receives too much coverage in the Times. She also pointed out that the paper once had a policy of not hiring Jews to cover Israel, but that this was abandoned long ago.

She concluded by pointing to ways that the paper could improve its coverage of the conflict. These included giving more historical background about the conflict while also expanding coverage of the Palestinians’ communities and daily lives.

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