Yesterday, the Public Editor of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt defended his coverage of Israel's war against Hamas. Unsurprisingly, he took the "since both sides criticize us we must be correct" approach. Surprisingly, his attempt, "Standing between Enemies," was marred by a particularly stupid mistake.
In order to show that the Times shows diligence in ferreting out fake news, Hoyt wrote:
Witty and his colleagues are frustrated because Israel has barred journalists from entering Gaza, and although The Times has two photographers in the region ready to go, it must rely on pictures taken by Palestinian photographers. "When I can't have my own person there, I have to question every picture that comes in -- to an obsessive degree," he said. Last summer, Witty unmasked as a fake a photo of an Iranian missile test that ran on many other front pages.
However as readers of Newsbusters know, it wasn't Patrick Witty - a photo editor for the Times - who discovered the missile fakery, but Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs. Not that it's surprising that Hoyt missed this little detail. At the time the fakes were discovered, The Lede, a blog at the Times, failed to credit Johnson.
Hoyt's justification of his paper's coverage has many other failings. He wrote:
The newspaper ran a correction last Monday, saying that for the first three days of the conflict, it should have said more than 60 civilians were killed, not "some 60." United Nations officials had counted 62 dead women and children but had no count of civilian men, because it is hard to tell them from Hamas fighters who do not wear uniforms.
However nowhere in his article did Hoyt write that the lack of uniforms was a violation of international law. At one point he wrote that some pictures,"...offends supporters of Israel, who argue that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and that the pictures inflame people against Israel." That makes it sound as if the use of human shields is a matter of taste, rather than an objective violation of human rights.
Hoyt's column is filled with this kind of sloppiness. It doesn't take much effort to find.
However there is an additional issue. A year and a half ago, Hoyt wrote a column "The Danger of One Sided Debate," in which he defended the paper's decision to publish an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas. His argument then was that it was valuable to have someone speak for Hamas.
Since the war started three weeks ago, the majority of opinion pieces in the Times have been critical of Israel. According to Hoyt, apparently one-sided debate is to be avoided, only when it denies a terrorist organization the chance to be adequately represented.