Just another day at the office for NBC News, folks. On Thursday, Tablet magazine writer Yair Rosenberg caught NBC News correspondents Ayman Mohyeldin and Cal Perry publishing an error-laden piece on NBCNews.com about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was later rewritten without a correction.
Rosenberg’s first tweet about the article noticed a blatant error concerning where Israel currently has settlements and threats by Secretary of State John Kerry that peace with the Palestinians would be in jeopardy if Israel didn’t withdraw:
A basic Google search for Israel accompanied by keywords like “withdraws” and/or “Gaza” would yield an understanding that Israel uprooted over 8,000 of its own citizens from the Gaza Strip over a decade ago in 2005.
If that wasn’t enough to classify the piece by Mohyeldin and Perry as a mess, here’s another fact the two failed to take into account (as Rosenberg again highlighted):
Once again, a trip to the search engine of your choice would levy a much different picture. For example, here’s how BBC News defines Golan Heights:
The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. Most of the Syrian Arab inhabitants fled the area during the conflict.
An armistice line was established and the region came under Israeli military control. Almost immediately Israel began to settle the Golan.
Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war. Despite inflicting heavy losses on Israeli forces, the surprise assault was thwarted. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers. There are some 20,000 Syrians in the area, most of them members of the Druze sect.
Rosenberg concluded with a tweet on why these errors were particularly egregious: “Understanding Israel pulled out of Gaza in '05 & got Hamas in return is kinda important for getting why it's wary of doing same in West Bank.”
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A few hours later, Washington Examiner managing editor Philip Klein observed that it “looks like [NBC News.com] overwrote the story to update it without issuing a correction.”
Upon further review, Klein would be correct. Here’s how the paragraph Roseberg zeroed in on was retooled:
Secretary of State John Kerry warned in his last major Mideast speech Wednesday that Israel was abandoning its chance for a two-state solution if it did not stop its settlement practices in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas considered by many as the makings of a potential Palestinian state.
Mohyeldin and Perry also added this line a few paragraphs later about Israel leaving Gaza: “In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza and later placed a blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory. Israel has since fought two wars there.”
Going lastly to the portion that likely had alluded to the Golan Heights, here’s how that was altered to report:
The two-state solution envisions a Palestinian state made up of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem existing alongside an Israeli one. It has been the government of Israel's stated policy, but Palestinians accuse the government of negotiating it in bad faith because it has allowed settlements to grow.
When push come to shove, these two NBC News journalists attempted to channel Vox.com with a so-called “explainer” on a newsworthy topic. Instead, they fell flat on their faces when it came to getting their facts right.
All of us make mistakes and particularly those of us who write for a living. But not providing an editor’s note or correction somewhere in the story when factual errors are made isn’t something journalists should be doing on a daily basis.