Updated: U.of Illinois Paper Publishes, Corrects Bogus ‘Quotation’ for 2nd Time

Dec. 9 update follows.

December 2, 2004

The University of Illinois newspaper, The Daily Illini, has once again flouted journalistic norms allowing a defamatory, bogus quotation allegedly made by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to be published for the second time in two years. In December 2003, DI columnist and journalism student Mariam Sobh used the phony quotation in her Op-Ed “Stop turning a blind eye.” In April, she apologized and acknowledged the quote was a fraud. (To read articles on the Sobh controversy, click here and here.)

Guest writer Joseph Danavi asserted in a Nov. 19 column entitled “Not the only one” that:

Arafat’s supposed partners for peace, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have all been heavily accused of war crimes against innocent Palestinians. These are leaders who want to picture the Palestinians forever in their current state of distress and even, ultimately, in annihilation. Ariel Sharon once confirmed this by saying: “I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area.”

The Daily Illini published several letters to the editor responding to the Danavi piece in its November 28 and 29 editions, but the paper has not printed a correction stating directly that the quote is an error.

The Daily Illini Has History of Anti-Israel & Anti-Semitic Commentaries

Just a few weeks ago on Nov. 5, the paper ran a crude, anti-Semitic cartoon. The cartoon featured a man who refrained from telling a “Jew joke” because he didn’t want “Isaiah down at the bank to beat me with his nose.” The editors apologized and suspended the cartoonist for a month.

In January 2003, the paper published a virulently anti-Semitic letter entitled “Jews manipulate America.” (To see the actual letter, click here).

 Action Items:

** Write to the Daily Illini editors urging them to acknowledge, in print, the paper’s mistake.

The Daily Illini must inform their readers that the alleged “quotation” is a slanderous fabrication. A reader’s letter to the editor is not a substitution for a correction. Encourage the paper to implement mechanisms and editing procedures to prevent future such mistakes, including asking for sources of controversial quotations and checking to make sure they are reliable sources.

Write or call:
Editor-in-chief Evan McLaughlin
[email protected]

Managing editor Laura Traut
(217) 337-8367
The Daily Illini,
57 E. Green St.,
Champaign, IL. 61820

**Urge Interim Chancellor Richard Herman to:

1) Investigate the recurring publication of defamatory anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements in the DI and report to the wider community on the findings;

2) Make public the steps to be taken to assure these grave problems do not persist;

3) Make public the journalistic standards that apply to reporters and opinion writers at the DI;

4) Educate the editorial staff of the Daily Illini (perhaps via a workshop) in differentiating between reliable sources and phony propaganda and in distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel from hate speech.

While the university administrators claim they have no control over the Daily Illini since it is an independent paper which receives no funding from the university, the paper is run by University of Illinois students and is the main publication for students on campus. If Jews are repeatedly defamed by a campus publication, it is the administration’s obligation to take steps to resolve the problem.

UPDATE Dec. 9, 2004:  Daily Illini Corrects, Apologizes for Bogus Quote–Again

CAMERA’s December 2 alert encouraged letter writers to contact Chancellor Richard Herman and the Daily Illini staff regarding the recurring problems with the University of Illinois newspaper, the Daily Illini. CAMERA was informed that the following day that Chancellor Herman met with the Daily Illini staff. And, the paper on Dec. 8 published a correction and apology. Editor-in-chief Evan Mclaughlin and Managing Editor Lauren Traut wrote:

In a Friday Forum published Nov. 19, titled “Not the only one,” a letter writer used misleading and inaccurate material on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The falsified Sharon quote was used by Daily Illini columnist Mariam Sobh in Fall 2003, and she acknowledged its inaccuracy in April 2004.

We strive to not only deliver accurate sports and news coverage, but also fair and accurate information in opinion pieces. The Daily Illini regrets the error of republishing the inaccurate information.

Action Items:

1) Commend the Daily Illini for admitting its mistake. Encourage the paper to make public the steps to be taken to assure these serious problems do not persist.  Ask what editing procedures they have in place now to distinguish between hate speech/unsubstantiated propaganda and legitimate criticism of Israel.

Write or call:
Editor in chief Evan McLaughlin:
[email protected] 
Managing editor: Laura Traut (217) 337-8367

2) Applaud Chancellor Richard Herman for his prompt action on this issue.

Write or call:
[email protected]
Phone: 217-333-6290  

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