Here’s a headline from the New York Times dated November 22, 2015: “1 Israeli and 3 Palestinians killed in Attacks in West Bank.” Nothing wrong with it, right? Wrong. Can you detect the flaw?
Here are the facts. On the day in question, one Israeli was killed and several others were wounded in three separate knife attacks by Palestinians. One of the attackers was killed by the Israeli police.
This is one of hundreds of examples of misleading headlines and news items the media bias group Honest Reporting chronicles on an ongoing basis with two goals in mind. First, they call out the media on their “honest” mistakes, urging them to take down or correct misleading tweets and articles; second, they educate the public since you and I are not on the scene and may not be able to detect errors and omissions.
But, you may be thinking, are problems such as the misleading headline an example of a mistake or media bias? Good question. Mistakes do happen in journalism as in any profession, and in most instances unintentional mistakes are corrected when someone points them out. So what constitutes bias?
Honest Reporting has identified eight categories of media bias, including opinions disguised as news, selective omissions and use of misleading terminology.
Here are some more examples:
- Time Magazine’s September 2010 cover story “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The sources for that outlook were just four people a reporter interviewed from one community—hardly a cross-section of Israelis.
- Another: In 2014, a NY Times editor acknowledged her paper’s coverage of Gaza was flawed by failing to inform readers that Hamas was diverting money intended for schools and hospitals to digging tunnels into Israel which they hoped to use to attack civilians.
Bias reflects an outlook that permeates a publication. In Print to Fit (Academic Studies Press, 2019) Jerold Auerbach documented consistent anti-Zionist and anti-Israel bias at the New York Times from the time it was purchased by Adolph Ochs in 1896 to the present. Bias comes from the top down rather than as a reflection of one editor or one reporter’s personal views, although the later can play a part.
What Honest Reporting does by closely monitoring the media’s coverage of Israel is raise the price for biased coverage. They call out reporters for omitting facts that contradict an article’s thesis, but they also provide access to people on the ground who have first hand information on a topic. For people like you and me, Honest Reporting provides links daily to top news stories and columns. They even create videos that put hot stories in context.
Of course, they can’t do all that without public support. If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, visit their website at honestreporting.com, sign up for Isra-Bite News. And, if you’d like to see “how the sausage is made,” consider signing up for their next “mission”––a week long event that takes place in Israel where people can learn more about why Honest Reporting is needed and how they work.