According to The Los Angeles Times, some 1400 Israeli side “died” in the Israel-Hamas war while some 9000 Palestinians were “killed.”
Just like that, with a few casual clicks of the keyboard, a major U.S. paper whitewashed Hamas’ ISIS-like atrocities including the mass slaughter of primarily civilians and also soldiers, beheadings, rapes, mutilations, torture, parents in front of children and vice versa. What President Joe Biden decried as “pure, unadulterated evil,” Los Angeles Times staff writer Ashley Ahn passed off as a “surprise offensive.”
In her Nov. 4 article, (“Hundreds rally at Israeli consulate in L.A., calling for cease-fire in Gaza,” page B1 in the Nov. 5 print edition), the Los Angeles Times fellow and former editor of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus paper intoned:
The protests come amid an escalating war between Israel and Hamas militants, who launched a surprise offensive from neighboring Gaza on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Since then, more than 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, with Palestinian militants continung to hold about 220 people hostage. More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
New to the LA Times newsroom, the young Ahn might be forgiven for concealing the nature of the gruesome terror attacks murdering hundreds of civilians at a dance party and countless families in their homes, including children slaughtered in their bedrooms or cowering with their parents at safe rooms.
But what about editors who reviewed and approved the story for publishing? What about deputy editor for California Hector Becerra who shared Ahn’s story on X, formerly Twitter?
According to the paper’s website, Los Angeles Times‘ fellowship program in which Ahn participates includes:
… six weeks of instruction on how to operate, navigate and succeed in a major newsroom, with training geared toward their specific interests. The next stage of their program includes multiweek rotations across the newsroom, where they will write, produce, edit, create visual projects and more, with coaching from seasoned members of The Times’ staff.
But what training can we expect from a staff which includes nine journalists who signed an open letter penned by journalists against ethical journalism calling for reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the false lens of “Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid”?
In a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece Jonah Goldberg highlighted the critical role of the editor (“Will the media get coverage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza right? It all depends on the editors“):
What do good editors do? Beyond all of the meat-and-potatoes grammar and style stuff, editors slow the process down as a necessary part of quality control. They tell reporters that an unverified rumor is not printable without adequate verification. They tell opinion columnists that a histrionic argument that ignores contrary evidence needs to be shelved or reworked. They stand against the tide of momentary collective passion or the irrepressible ambition of individual journalists to maintain a higher standard for the institution as a whole.
What if those establishing the higher standard for the instutition as a whole include Sara Yasin, the paper’s managing editor. who has repeatedly embraced the Hamas narrative on X, reposting material accusing Israel of “mass ethnic cleansing” and a “genocidal assault”? Can we count on such an editor to instruct young journalists not to cover up Hamas’ horrific barbarity? Will she point out the unacceptable double standard of covering up these innocent civilian victims’ horrific murders (they “died”) even as the report manages clearly to state that the perpetrators of the atrocities were “killed”? (Indeed, the casualty totals released by Hamas’ “Health Ministry” includes the estimated 1500 Hamas terrorists who were killed as they carried out the massacre within Israeli.)
And what if the daughter of the paper’s owner takes an active role in the paper, “advocat[ing]” for her interests, as Nika Soon-Shiong has acknowledged she does? And what if those interests include her sentiment, shared on X, that “It’s not journalistic malpractice to describe the state of Israel as an Apartheid state. This is well-established in international law”?
If Soon-Shiong’s egregiously baseless position represents the “higher standard for the institution as a whole,” what hope is there for the paper to get coverage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza right? Ethical journalism dies alongside some 1400 Israelis.