Times defends its Gaza coverage
The New York Times defended its coverage of the Gaza conflict today in the face of a sharp rebuke delivered in the form of a cover story in this week's New York Observer.
In a bellicose, purely textual front-page treatment that was a big departure from the colorful character illustrations that had long been a staple of Observer covers, the paper proclaimed in bold knockout text: "Two Weeks of Shallow, Facile Moral Equivalency in The New York Times; The paper of record records one side—and only one side—of the war in Gaza."
The feature, an opinion piece by Jerold S. Auerbach, a Wellesley College professor emeritus who has taught and written about the history of Israel, criticized the Times, including Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, Beirut bureau chief Anne Barnard and various opinion writers, for coverage that he characterized as slanted in favor of the Palestinian side of the conflict.
"Who will hold Hamas accountable for its actions," Auerbach wrote, "from kidnapping to murder to indiscriminate shelling of Israeli cities and towns?"
Times foreign editor Joe Kahn was out of the office when we called. But a Times spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, responded to a request for comment, defending the paper's news coverage.
"First, consider the source, as this piece was written by someone with a particular point of view on the subject of Israel," Murphy wrote in an email to Capital. "Our goal in covering the situation in the Middle East is to fairly and accurately portray events there as they are happening. We don't get everything right and when we make mistakes, we correct them.
"On this particular subject, we're frequently criticized by people allied with one side or another and that is usually because they're not interested in fair reporting and are instead looking for reporting that aligns with their predetermined opinion. We can't do much about that."
Earlier, deputy Times foreign editor Lydia Polgreen defended the paper's Gaza reporting on Twitter after posting an image of the Observer cover.
"Our team in Israel/Gaza is doing stellar work under extremely difficult circumstances. Great, fair-minded coverage by best in business," she wrote, following it up with another tweet: "Brave, honest and fair reporters like @rudoren & @ABarnardNYT is the heart of the Times’ commitment to covering the world."
Matters related to Israel and Palestine are always a minefield for the Times, whose coverage has been under a microscope in recent weeks.
Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote on July 14 that her office had received "more than 1,000 emails from readers on this topic recently, with protests on both sides, and, in some cases, charges of bias coming from both sides." And earlier this month, Rudoren had to defend her July 5 story about an American-Palestinian teen who was beaten by undercover Israeli police.
Auerbach's article is the second major Times takedown that the Observer, which is edited by Ken Kurson and owned by real-estate magnate Jared Kushner, has run this year.