Tuesday 24 October 2023

NYT Concedes Too Much Reliance on Hamas Claims For Hospital Blast

 The New York Times acknowledged on Monday that it “relied too heavily” on claims made by Hamas when reporting on an explosion at a hospital in the Gaza Strip last week.

In an editor’s note, the publication said it should not have depended so much on government officials affiliated with Hamas to initially report that Israeli forces conducted an airstrike on October 17 that hit the Gaza City hospital and killed hundreds of people. The early account received a “large headline” at the top of the newspaper’s website, the note added.

Such coverage helped fuel anti-Israel protests and gave Rep. Rashida Tliab (D-MI), the lone Palestinian-American member of Congress, a new attack line against Israel.

“The Times’s initial accounts attributed the claim of Israeli responsibility to Palestinian officials, and noted that the Israeli military said it was investigating the blast,” the New York Times said. “However, the early versions of the coverage — and the prominence it received in a headline, news alert and social media channels — relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.”

The note added, “The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”

Pushing back on the Hamas narrative, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published images showing the hospital site before and after the explosion, which it said resulted from a “failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.” The IDF also released what it said were intercepted communications between Hamas terrorists talking about a misfire at a cemetery near the hospital.

In addition, the U.S. government said its initial assessment was that Israel was “not responsible” for the explosion.

The Times said it “continued to update its coverage as more information became available, reporting the disputed claims of responsibility and noting that the death toll might be lower than initially reported. Within two hours, the headline and other text at the top of the website reflected the scope of the explosion and the dispute over responsibility.”


Concluding the note, the newspaper said, “Given the sensitive nature of the news during a widening conflict, and the prominent promotion it received, Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified. Newsroom leaders continue to examine procedures around the biggest breaking news events — including for the use of the largest headlines in the digital report — to determine what additional safeguards may be warranted.”

The war against Hamas followed attacks by the terrorist group on Israel on October 7 that killed an estimated 1,400-plus people. Israeli forces have been conducting airstrikes on Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion.

A news article published separately by The New York Times stated that Hamas has “yet to produce or describe any evidence linking Israel to the strike.” It noted that the group “says it cannot find the munition that hit the site and has declined to provide detail to support its count of the casualties.”

Further, the report said “all traces” of the munition at the blast site — which turned out to be the hospital parking lot and not the hospital itself — have “seemingly vanished” and therefore cannot be assessed.

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