OpinionIsrael at War

An Associated Press non-response

Why can't the media organization correct a distortion of its reporting on the Oct. 7 massacre?

The Associated Press Television News building in London. Credit: Metroskop/Benjamin Holler/Wikimedia.
The Associated Press Television News building in London. Credit: Metroskop/Benjamin Holler/Wikimedia.
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, PhD is the editor and publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News, for which he has been writing award-winning commentary for over 50 years. His latest book is Across the Expanse of Jewish Thought.

When I make an argument, I try to imagine the strongest counter-argument. As I learned from my high school principal, the late Sam Waldman, never argue against an opponent’s weakest point. If you can’t defeat his strongest one, you don’t have a very good one yourself.

If I were to argue that there is media bias against Israel, what might the strongest counterargument be?

Perhaps this: Because I am committed to the safety of Israel and to the Jews who live there, I have blinders on. I cannot be dispassionate. It is I who am biased.

Or perhaps this: I complain about double standards, but engage in them myself.

A lot of these arguments and counterarguments about media bias against Israel go round and round.

Rarely is anything clear-cut. Rarely is it unnecessary to muster a counterargument at all, weak or strong.

For example, last Dec. 22, I commented in these pages on an AP article printed in The Denver Post on Dec. 6. The AP reporters reported in detail how Hamas kidnapped people from Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7. It was a thorough article. It interviewed survivors, reviewed videos and even interviewed released hostages.

Then, having finished it, something hit me like a hammer: Not once did the article mention that Hamas murdered roughly 20 Israelis at Nir Oz on Oct. 7. The reader could only conclude that Hamas’s sole crime was kidnapping.

Could there be an article about the resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania without referring to her testimony before Congress a few days earlier? Could her resignation be detached from her inability to condemn the genocide of Jews? How could an article about Oct. 7 never mention the mass murder and mutilation that took place on the day of the kidnapping?

And so, I wrote last Dec. 22:

“Despite the review of hundreds of messages among Nir Oz residents ‘shared exclusively with the Associated Press,’ despite the AP’s ‘direct interview with 17 and accounts from many more, security camera footage and Hamas’ own instruction manuals,’ and despite AP’s consultation with ‘four experts in hostage situations,’ this very long AP report of Dec. 6 on the events of Oct. 7 on Kibbutz Nir Oz never once mentioned—or even hinted—that some 20 members of Nir Oz were murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7.”

AP took note of the critique and responded. On Dec. 22, I received an email from one of the two authors of the AP article, who politely but firmly said I had it all wrong. I quote the AP response in full:

“I’m thankful that you took the time to read the story Sam and I put together, as a lot of effort went into it.

“But I wanted to take issue with your conclusion that the story never even alludes to the deaths. Although the reporting was focused on the hostage-taking—because Hamas continues to deny that it deliberately took civilians hostage despite all the evidence to the contrary—we mention the deaths high in the story because we realize, as do you, that their loss is as important as the loss of any hostages. ‘Around 20 Nir Oz residents were killed on Oct. 7, and news of the death of some of them in Gaza has started to trickle in.’

“I realize the piece was long and the subject made it difficult viewing, as was the video piece accompanying it, but any accusation that we failed to address the entirety of what happened in Nir Oz seems unjustified.

“Regards, Lori Hinnant.”

Reading this email, I went back to read—and reread—the original AP article as it appeared in The Denver Post on Dec. 6. The line about the murders that Ms. Hinnant cited was not there.

I replied to Ms. Hinnant:

“Thank you for writing.

“The line you cite, ‘Around 20 Nir Oz residents were killed, and the news of … ‘ does not appear in your story as it is printed in The Denver Post, Dec. 6, Section A, page 7. (I reread the piece another two times. I showed it to a colleague to read. The line isn’t there.)

“Was that line removed intentionally by the editors at the Post or by the editors at AP? Was that a mistake?

“Either way, the truncated message conveyed by the Post article is a terrible one, although not a surprise given its general approach to covering this war.

“I’ll run a modified correction: correcting your and your co-author’s intent—yes, of course, you have a right to have your work characterized accurately, and yes, you obviously put in a lot of effort—but I will not run a correction of the Post’s piece because, when all is said and done, it is all that its readers have.

“Based on the Post’s radio silence regarding previous attempts by this newspaper to point out similar inadequacies in its coverage of this war, I despair of pointing this out either.

“However, while I am not in your shoes and I respect the autonomy of journalists, if it were my piece that were distorted, I would speak up to whomever deleted this critical piece of context.

“When many of our readers complain about ‘distorted media coverage’ of this war in The Denver Post, this is a classic example.

“It is also what is disheartening to me as a citizen, as a journalist and as a Jew.”

What was Ms. Hinnant’s reply to my email?

Radio silence.

Correcting the record with her own editors or with The Denver Post does not seem to be a high priority for Ms. Hinnant. She will point out my error, which wasn’t an error, but apparently will not apply the same critique to the people who actually did distort her reporting.

Is it possible to have any confidence that any AP story about the Gaza war, or at least one that appears in The Denver Post, actually tells the truth? After all, truth may be distorted not only by what is said but by what is deleted.

Originally published by Intermountain Jewish News.

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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