LA Times’ Unfulfilled Promises: Accuracy, Fairness, Journalistic Rigor, Compassion

After Hillary Manning, Los Angeles Times’ VP of communications, last week defended its editors and coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas as “committed to the standards of accuracy and fairness,” and promised “journalistic rigor, fairness and compassion,” the paper continues to pump out content which indicates otherwise.

Indeed, new erroneous reporting about the Gaza Strip and Hamas has appeared in Los Angeles Times coverage in recent days. For instance, an Oct. 20 article by Summer Lin and Andrew J. Campa initially grossly underreported the number of hostages held incommunicado by Hamas, stating (“No war crimes in our name,’ Jewish protesters say in L.A.: About 50 people gather outside vice president’s home,” Page B1 and online here, screen capture below):

Israel has declared war and continued to bomb and seal off the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, ever since Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 Israelis and taking at least 100 hostages into Gaza. At least 3,785 Palestinians, including 1,524 children and 120 older people, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza as of Thursday, and at least 12,493 have been wounded, according to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. (Emphasis added.)

Raz Asher, 5, and her sister Aviv, 3, were kidnapped by Hamas with their mother and grandmother. Hamas is holding 30 children and between 10-20 senior citizens, data ignored by The Times even as it reported unreliable Hamas claims about young and old Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip. The girls’ grandmother, Efrat Katz, was murdered during the kidnapping. (Photo from Instagram/Doron Katz Asher)

Days before Lin’s and Campa’s Oct. 20 claim that Hamas is holding “at least 100,” Israel had already released a figure just about twice as high: 199.  And the same day that The Los Angeles Times underreported “at least 100,” Israel had already updated the figure to 203. As The New York Times reported hours before the LA Times story appeared: Israel’s military said it had been in contact with the families of 203 people taken hostage, raising by four the number of people believed to be held in Gaza.” (As of today, the updated figure is 222 confirmed hostages held by terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, including Israelis and citizens of many other nations.)
After CAMERA called out the paper for this misreporting, both on X and in private communication, editors yesterday issued a stealth change, amending the digital report to refer to “at least 200 hostages.” As of this writing, no correction has been appended to the article alerting readers to the change, and we find no indication (neither here nor in news database Lexis-Nexis) that the correction ran in print, though the error did appear there Oct. 20 on page B1.
Furthermore, it is remarkable that the LA Times journalists neglected to report that children and elderly — 30 children under the age of 16 and between 10-20 elderly civilians over the age of 60 — are held incommunicado by Hamas, an indisputable war crime, though their reporting does cite unreliable Hamas claims for young and old Palestinian fatalities in the Gaza Strip. This lopsided reporting is all the more stunning in light of the fact that Hamas issued directives to deliberately target civilians, especially children, for brutal murder and kidnapping. We previously documented that managing editor Sara Yasin has sought to discredit that information, retweeting the hyperlinked X post (screenshot at left).
In a separate article which requires correction, The Times’ Libor Jany and Suhauna Hussain misreported (“Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters rally in downtown Los Angeles,” Oct. 21, online here): “Israel sealed the [Rafah] crossing after Hamas’ attack, cutting off supplies and leading Palestinians in Gaza to ration food and drinking water.” (Emphasis added.)
Israel did not “seal” the crossing. It cannot the “seal” the crossing, which is run by Hamas on the Gaza side and Egypt on the Egyptian side. Since the 2005 withdrawal, Israel has had no presence at the Rafah Crossing. Indeed, as reported by the anti-Israel MEMO Middle East Monitor, it is Egypt which had sealed the crossing (“Egypt reinforces Gaza border with concrete barrier as it ‘indefinitely’ closes Rafah crossing“): 

Egypt is continuing to keep its border with the Gaza Strip closed to Palestinians attempting to flee the Israeli bombardment of the territory, completing the construction of its concrete wall in the process.

Since the start of the Israeli aerial assault on Gaza which began after an offensive operation by the Palestinian resistance group last Saturday, Egypt closed its Rafah border crossing with the strip as many of its residents fled to the south of the besieged territory.

Then, earlier this week, The New Arab outlet cited a senior official Egyptian security source as saying that the Egyptian military “indefinitely” closed it due to the situation having “become quite dangerous after the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip has had an impact on the Egyptian side of the crossing”.

According to images and reports circulating online, Egyptian authorities have now taken further steps to strengthen and reinforce the crossing by installing high concrete barriers on its side of the border.

While there are reports that Israeli airstrikes have caused damage which complicated efforts to use the crossing, Israel did not — and cannot — “seal” the crossing. Only Egypt and/or Hamas are in a position to do so.

Also noteworthy is today’s page 3 print headline: “Wider Israeli airstrikes threaten to ignite broader war.” The subheadline continues: “Military continues its bombardment of Gaza as more aid arrives. Syria and West Bank are also targeted.” The Times headline deems the Israeli airstrikes — and not the Hezbollah or West Bank belligerence that precipitated the airstrikes — as threatening to ignite broader war.

As Haaretz reported about the Israeli strike on the Jenin mosque:

The Israeli Air Force bombed on Sunday a mosque sheltering members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, thought by security forces to be intending a murder spree like that seen in communities near the Gaza border two weeks ago. …

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said the targeted cell was “a ticking time bomb” that was “responsible for many terror attacks.

“It planned to commit a murderous attack in Israeli territory,” he continued. “The cell was attacked while in underground tunnels beneath the mosque.”

Imagine if West Bank terror groups succeed in pulling off a massacre akin to Hamas’ Oct. 7 bloodbath. Surely such a barbaric and devastating act of mass murder would open yet another front, threatening to ignite a wider war, to borrow The Times’ language. Fairminded and compassionate observers would conclude that in preventing such a horrific, widescale attack on civilians, the Israeli airstrike helped stem the risk of a wider war. The Los Angeles Times’ conclusion, however, was just the opposite: in preventing another act of mass murder of Jews, Israel threatened to ignite a wider war.

The accompanying AP story, reprinted in the Los Angeles Times, revealed no detail of the severity of the attack being planned in the Jenin mosque.  Indeed, the article failed to convey the gravity of the thwarted attack meant to be an Oct. 7 massacre reprise, stating only:

The Israeli military said the mosque compound belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants who had carried out several attacks in recent months and were planning another one.

Likewise, reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria also are aimed at preventing precision weaponry with the potential to inflict huge harm to civilians from reaching the hands of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror organization which is open about its aspirations to launch a Hamas-style inflitration and which only months ago boasted that Israelis “will be pulling bodies out from under the ruins.”

Notably, while the story was AP’s, the abominable headline blaming Israeli airstrikes for threatening to ignite a wider war, even as the very same airstrikes likely diminished the threat of a wider war, was uniquely The Los Angeles Times‘. Indeed, AP’s headline, free of the editorializing, was: “Second aid convoy reaches Gaza as Israel attacks targets in Syria and occupied West Bank.”

In addition, AP’s language — Israel attacks targets — more appropriately conveys legitimate military targets, while The Los Angeles Times’ wording — “Syria and West Bank are also targeted” — falsely implies that Israeli airstrikes indiscriminately fired on civilians.

Meeting the journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness, journalistic rigor and compassion requires more than issuing empty promises. It requires publishing content which actually answers to those criteria. On that front, The Los Angeles Times has miles to go.

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