A ‘Los Angeles Times’ reporter’s AIPAC fabrication

Will the paper finally dust off its ethics guidelines?

The Los Angeles Times Building. Photo: The Angels 2010
The Los Angeles Times Building. Photo: The Angels 2010
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

“The goal of The Los Angeles Times is to publish news and information of the highest quality,” say the paper’s Ethics Guidelines. “The standards outlined here apply to all editorial employees and to the work they produce for the Times, whether it appears in print, on the web, on social media, on television or on any other platform.”

There is no wiggle room in this June 2014 document: LA Times employees’ social media activity must be “above reproach.”

Furthermore, the guidelines state, “A fair-minded reader of Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the organization is promoting any agenda.”

A recent tweet by the paper’s White House correspondent puts that eight-year-old document to the test.

In a blatantly false tweet yesterday, Times reporter Eli Stokols exposed both his bias and his ignorance: “AIPAC trying to take out Jewish Dem @Andy_Levin in primary because he backs a two-state solution—while supporting pro-Israel Rs who wouldn’t certify the 2020 election.”

The notion that AIPAC opposes Rep. Levin (D-Mich.) “because he backs a two-state solution” is sheer fabrication. After all, the Politico article tweeted by Stokols explicitly noted that Levin’s opponent, Rep. Hayley Stevens (D-Mich.), who did receive AIPAC backing, also supports the two-state solution.

Politico states, “On her campaign website, Stevens describes her support for a two-state solution, ‘a democratic Jewish State of Israel, and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace,’ as well as her opposition to the ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ movement against Israel.”

Stokols is married to Elena Schneider, who authored the Politico article. One wonders whether he bothered to actually read his own wife’s article before tweeting so recklessly and “cast[ing] a shadow on the Times’ reputation,” as his paper’s 2014 ethics code puts it.

Furthermore, had Stokols invested any time in doing his own independent research into Stevens’ position regarding a two-state solution, he would have found her vote in favor and co-sponsorship of House Resolution 326 (2019) which is entirely about U.S. support for a two-state solution. Or, he might have noted Stevens’ tweets explicitly stating her support for such a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Given AIPAC’s support for two-state solution advocate Stevens, the notion that AIPAC opposes her rival Levin “because he backs a two-state solution” is completely unfounded and absurd.

“Investigative reporting requires special diligence with respect to fairness,” reminds the Times’ 2014 voice from the past. “Those involved in such work should bear in mind that they are more credible when they provide a rich, nuanced account of the topic. Our coverage should avoid simplistic portrayals.”

A “principled news organization” in pursuit of “information of the highest quality” and shunning “simplistic portrayals.” Is this The Los Angeles Times character today? Or did it shed that ethos somewhere along the way?

Editors should recall the wise words some newspaper officials once wrote: “Credibility, a news organization’s most precious asset, is arduously acquired and easily squandered. It can be maintained only if each of us accepts responsibility for it.”

CAMERA contacted the Times yesterday seeking a correction. If none is forthcoming, than the lofty 2014 ethical guidelines are nothing more than a dusty chapter in the annals of Times history, and the paper’s credibility is one more casualty of journalistic decay.

Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

This article was originally published by CAMERA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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