New York Times journalists are extremely protective of their newspaper’s reputation as the “paper of record.” So when faced with criticism of their reporting or accusations of journalistic bias, they tend to reject it, discrediting their critics as insignificant right-wingers.
Last year, for example, former New York Times correspondent Neil Lewis wrote a lengthy piece for the Columbia Journalism Review on “The Times and the Jews,” discounting criticism of the newspaper’s Palestinian-Israeli coverage as “ill-founded,” “toxic” and “based on misunderstandings of journalism.” He marginalized the critics as likely to come from a small group of Orthodox Jews who support Israeli right-wing policies condemned by the majority of American supporters of Israel. Such critics, he insisted, “can easily find what seem to them errors in emphasis or tone on any individual article.” But any fair analysis should view coverage “as part of a larger thematic narrative.”
Well, the results of just that sort of fair analysis were recently released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA). And they provide detailed evidence that exposes the newspaper’s biased coverage and disproves Lewis’ dismissive arguments.
CAMERA is a media-monitoring organization whose 65,000 members represent a wide cross-section of the American public — Jews and non-Jews, secular and orthodox, liberal and conservative — motivated by the desire to see accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. The study, “Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,” empirically examines coverage over an extended period of time, July 1-Dec. 31, 2011, and finds a “larger thematic narrative” of continued, embedded indictment of Israel that pervades both the news and commentary sections of the newspaper.
On the news pages, where readers expect objective and balanced reporting, criticism of Israel was cited more than twice as often as criticism of the Palestinians. The Palestinian perspective on the peace process was laid out nearly twice as often as the Israeli perspective. Vandalism by a fringe Israeli group and IDF military defensive strikes were emphasized in numerous articles, often with headlines highlighting Israeli actions, while Palestinian aggression and incitement was downplayed or ignored. Israel’s blockade of Gaza was usually mentioned without context. And Israel’s resort to force aboard a Turkish ship attempting to break the blockade was frequently discussed and faulted without referencing the precipitating attacks on Israeli soldiers by pro- Palestinian activists.