Guardian

More than a few headlines: Guardian reply to Israel coverage criticism misses the mark


The Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott published an op-ed today responding to criticism of the paper’s coverage of Israel during the latest round of Palestinian violence (Accusations of bias in coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Feb. 22).

Elliott focused on one particular complaint that we posted about:  a Guardian headline accompanying an Associated Press (AP) article, about four terror attacks on Israelis in one day, that focused on the deaths of the Palestinian attackers.  

Elliott rejected the complaint because, he claimed, “the headline is not inaccurate, nor…does it suggest that the three Palestinians were innocent victims”. He did acknowledge, however, that the strap line – suggesting that the Israeli version of events was in doubt – was “problematic”.

Though we’ve posted frequently on UK media headlines about the current terror wave, the problem of media bias against is far greater than ‘a few’ misleading headlines alone.

Indeed, Elliott contextualizes his op-ed by noting the broader pushback against what’s perceived as biased reporting, by the Israeli government and watchdog groups, and cites the recent Knesset sub-committee session on foreign media coverage.  Elliott wrote that “The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem [headed by Reuters Jerusalem Bureau Chief Luke Baker] rejected allegations of bias” at the Knesset session.  He then quoted Baker’s “robust” defense.

Our colleague Tamar Sternthal testified at the same special Knesset session, and made some extremely important points about both Baker’s statement and the broader problem of anti-Israel bias in the media.  Sternthal noted that Baker failed to provide a substantive response to CAMERA’s critique of the FPA statement or coverage by Reuters and other international news outlets”, but instead “clumsily attempted to steer the subject away from their coverage with several inappropriate tweets.”

Sternthal added the following in the penultimate paragraph of her op-ed: 

Other journalists, apparently more devoted to their colleagues than to the actual principles of journalism, have closed ranks, retweeting Mr. Baker’s avoidance tweet and chiming in with their own ad hominem diversionary attacks. Anshel Pfeffer, for instance, who writes for both Haaretz and The Economistattacked CAMERA as no less than an “enemy of freedom of the press and democracy in Israel.”

Indeed, Pfeffer continued with the same line of attack earlier today against this writer.

Sternthal concluded her op-ed thusly:

Apparently, Pfeffer, Baker and some of their colleagues fail to understand that critics of journalists are every bit as vital to democracy as journalists. The alternative is the media policing itself. And that’s something that Baker has proven that he can’t —  or won’t —  do.

Herein lies the most important point: the knee-jerk dismissive reaction by many journalists when challenged by watchdog groups and others, and their related failure to recognize that such ‘checks and balances’ on media power are in fact vital for the health of any democracy. 

Our orientation is of course pro-Israel. We make no effort to hide that fact.

However, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day what we’re doing when challenging a misleading headline or inaccurate claim is holding media outlets accountable to their own professional code of ethics and – in the case of the UK – the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code.

Former long-time Guardian editor and owner CP Scott wrote the following back in 1921:

A newspaper is of necessity something of a monopoly, and its first duty is to shun the temptations of monopoly. Its primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted. Neither in what it gives, nor in what it does not give, nor in the mode of presentation must the unclouded face of truth suffer wrong. Comment is free, but facts are sacred.

The substance of our tweets, blog posts and complaints to editors are dedicated to this simple proposition. 

11 replies »

  1. My twopenny worth, having read Elliott’s article:

    “These complaints form one of the largest groups relating to a single subject that come to the readers’ editor’s office.”

    Could that be because of the obsessive focus on the part of the Guardian on alleged Israeli wrongdoing and the de-contextualising of reporting about the most recent terror attacks?

    “I rejected the complaint because the headline is not inaccurate, nor in my view does it suggest that the three Palestinians were innocent victims. Three Palestinians are dead. But is it the whole story, no. Should headlines encapsulate the whole story? Traditionally they were required to capture the readers’ attention with the most significant part of the story: in this case the deaths. It was accepted that headlines were read in conjunction with the subheading and the article, which gave context.”

    This damns him and the Guardian, along the same lines as the idiotic “facts are tricky things” nonsense he wrote as an excuse in similar circumstances years ago. He admits that the headline is out to capture readers’ attention and yet also admits that it doesn’t tell the whole story. The context should not be confined to a subheading. The articles should provide full context. They rarely do.

    As for the rest, all Guardian reporting of the latest attacks on Israeli civilians should be judged in the context of its reporting on Israel/Palestine as a whole. We know that The Guardian is obsessive in its searching out of “tricky facts” (to use Elliotts’ own phrase) about Israeli alleged blameworthiness about everything, from battery hen farms to alleged brutality against Palestinians, and that it has shown its bias in its Comment is Free articles. Those being the case Elliott is deluded if he thinks his excuses are believable.

  2. The response at CiF in the comments was actually pretty awesome, divided almost equally between posters saying Elliot didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about and the CiF gallery of pro-Pals trying to pivot away from the central argument and getting their knobs kicked in by the intelligent posters (yes, the intelligent posters here were pro-Israel as is often the case; anyone who doesn’t like that, too damn bad).

  3. If a university student wrote Elliott’s article as a personal reflection they’d be failed. Doesn’t address the issue, doesn’t understand what the problem is – or even that there is a problem.

  4. The usual toxic Guardian mix of bigotry, whataboutery, stupidity and arrogance.
    In other words, a typical specimen of the garbage that this publication spews in the name of ‘journalism’.

  5. The offensive headlines reveal that the anti-Israel bias is so ingrained at the Guardian they are not aware of the backwards reporting until it is pointed out. of course, it is equally possible that it is deliberate.

    Now Elliott has revealed the even after it is pointed out he is unable to understand why this is an issue:

    “I rejected the complaint because the headline is not inaccurate, nor in my view does it suggest that the three Palestinians were innocent victims. ”

    I imagine he would regard the following as an acceptable headline for a deadly accident at see:

    “Iceberg damaged when Titanic hits it”.

    Not inaccurate, nor in my view does it suggest that the iceberg was an innocent victim.

    Right?

  6. The BBC and the Guardian have this same ingrained and perverse attitude towards Israel,these two can be judged by the company that they keep,the journalists that they employ or commission….When you have Bella Mackie (Who has the brains cells of a dead flea) who also happens to be Alan Rusbrdger’s daughter as the commissioning editor on the Guardians opinion desk then don’t expect any favors from this rotten rag….They delete or ban any poster or post that challenges their twisted world view on Israel…..

  7.     You say:

    Our orientation is of course pro-Israel. We make no effort to hide that fact.

    -0- That’s putting it mildly. David

    From: UK Media Watch To: david_e_pinto@yahoo.ca Sent: Monday, February 22, 2016 8:07 AM Subject: [New post] More than a few headlines: Guardian reply to Israel coverage criticism misses the mark #yiv2483549531 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2483549531 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2483549531 a.yiv2483549531primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2483549531 a.yiv2483549531primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2483549531 a.yiv2483549531primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2483549531 a.yiv2483549531primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2483549531 WordPress.com | Adam Levick posted: “The Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott published an op-ed today responding to criticism of the paper’s coverage of Israel during the latest round of Palestinian violence (Accusations of bias in coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Feb. 22).” | |