Los Angeles Times Editors Fail to Distinguish Fact from Interpretation

“Editorials, analytical articles, and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to fact as news reports. Significant errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected,” according to the Statement of Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Although opinion and editorial writers have more leeway than news correspondents, this principle makes clear that they are not off the hook when it comes to the facts. Thus, while editorial writers are free to interpret the meaning of events, they are not supposed to misreport what has actually transpired.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in a Feb. 22 editorial in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Brave Use of Land-for-Peace.” The editorial misreported a Feb. 20 Israeli Cabinet decision by stating:

But the good news was blunted by the Cabinet’s decision to redraw Israel’s borders to include major West Bank settlements on land seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, setting a worrisome precedent. (Emphasis added.)

In fact, the Feb. 20 Cabinet decision concerned the route of the West Bank security barrier, and did not touch on “borders”— a final status issue.

Sunday’s Cabinet communique discussed the decision concerning the security barrier route. An excerpt follows:

The Cabinet discussed the revised route that has been proposed for the security fence and decided, in continuation of its previous relevant decisions and in the wake of substantive considerations stemming from the relevant High Court of Justice rulings on the continuation of work to build the fence…

In his article Monday, Feb. 21, Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Ellingwood accurately covered the Cabinet’s decisions (“Cabinet Agrees to Evict Settlers; Israel also decided its separation wall should enclose two settlements as it approves historic West Bank and Gaza Strip evacuations”). His opening paragraph reads:

Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved removing settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and decided a separation barrier in the West Bank should enclose two large settlement blocs.” Likewise, Laura King of the Los Angeles Times rightly reported the day of the editorial: “the Cabinet also approved a modified route for Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, which would place the largest of the Jewish population centers on the Israeli side of the structure. (“Israel Frees 500 Palestinians, Triggering Range of Emotions”).

Observers may debate whether the route of the security barrier will ultimately become a formal border. Nevertheless, the Cabinet decision certainly did not address the contentious final status issue of borders, and concerned itself solely with the more limited topic of the security barrier (which may or may not be a future border).

In response to CAMERA’s concern that the Cabinet’s decision was misreported, a representative for the newspaper responded: “The language is, of course, part of an opinion piece; the phrase reflects how editors have chosen to interpret events.”

To assert that the Cabinet had decided to redraw Israel’s borders is a serious error of fact, not a matter of interpretation.

Comments are closed.