A disturbing new development has emerged in The New York Times’ botched initial headline about the Gaza hospital explosion. Charlotte Klein of Vanity Fair obtained internal Slack messages that show there was internal pushback in the Times newsroom, but that those raising concerns were overruled by senior editors. I don’t have a log-in for Vanity Fair, but Tom Jones of Poynter Online has summarized her story:
Klein wrote, “… senior editors appear to have dismissed suggestions from an international editor, along with a junior reporter stationed in Israel who has been contributing to the paper’s coverage of the war, that the paper hedge in its framing of events.”…
[T]he international editor wrote, “I think we can’t just hang the attribution of something so big on one source without having tried to verify it. And then slap it across the top of the [homepage]. Putting the attribution at the end doesn’t give us cover, if we’ve been burned and we’re wrong.”
No kidding. Please read Jones’ item in full; trust me when I tell you that it gets worse.
As we know, the Times and a number of other media outlets claimed Oct. 17 that an Israeli missile had struck Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City and killed an estimated 500 people, attributing the news to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. It took the Times at least an hour and a half to add that Israeli officials were claiming that the explosion was the result of a failed missile launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Hamas ally. The Times published an Editor’s Note on Monday acknowledging that it fell short of its own standards.
Based on the best available evidence, it now appears likely that Israeli officials were correct; that the Islamic Jihad missile did not actually strike the hospital but exploded nearby; and that the death toll, though still uncertain, is considerably lower than 500. This BBC News assessment, which points in that direction, is now six days old, but The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence now believes with “high confidence” that Israel was not responsible.