UPI’s Adam Schrader Provokes Nostalgia For Parachute Journalism

June 5 UPDATE, 10:17 am EST:

Shortly after this post was published, and a day after CAMERA first reached out to UPI, editors commendably deleted all of the problematic background content (aside from two references to "Palestine") as editors undertake further review. A notification appended to the bottom of the article now notes: "This article has been updated to remove some incorrect background information on recent tensions between Israel and Palestine." Stay tuned for any additional updates.

At one time in seemingly ancient history, parachute journalism – sending a correspondent to a foreign region to intensely cover local events for a brief period of time – came in for harsh criticism. "[C]lichés and stereotyping," Bill Mitchell and Marjie Lundstrom lamented nearly two decades ago, slamming the inevitable output of globe-trotting journalists dropping in on unfamiliar territory to churn out copious copy.

"And so it is in journalism today, where intense media competition and ’round-the-clock deadlines have made for some disturbingly predictable and often distorted accounts of places and the people who live there," the two journalists wrote back in 2002. "There's nothing polite about some of the outcomes."

From our present-day perch, the turn of the century concerns about parachute journalism seem almost quaint. Nowadays, some journalists don't even bother with the parachute. They stay right where they are, covering international affairs without even getting up from the couch. Even by today's diminished standards, the results are not pretty.

Illustrative image of a couch journalist (AI image from Wepik)

In the last several days, United Press International breaking news reporter Adam Schrader has filed a multitude of stories spanning a vast geographic area, remotely covering international events in Russia, the Suez Canal, North Korea, China and elsewhere. If his June 1 article on Israeli-Palestinian affairs is any indication, however, neither prolific output nor diverse content amount to basic knowledge of his subject matter, much less expertise ("Jake Sullivan pushes Israeli officials to 'improve the lives of Palestinians").

While United Press International boasts "a history of reliable reporting dating back to 1907," and promises that "today's UPI is a credible source for the most important stories of the day," Schrader's June 1 Middle East story, perhaps penned in Metro New York, and certainly not in Jerusalem, Ramallah or Amman, is the most error-ridden, tendentious item that this grizzled media watchdog has encountered in mainstream Western media in well over a decade.

Packing numerous factual errors and a fabrication into a single sentence, Schrader riffs on recent Israeli-Palestinian violence:

Earlier in May, Palestine and Israel exchanged fire after the death of a Palestinian detainee in an Israeli prison and, in April, the Kingdom of Jordan issued a warning to Israel after Israeli leaders raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque claiming that Muslims praying inside were a "dangerous mob."

The notion that "Israeli leaders raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque" is sheer fantasy. No Israeli "leaders" raided, or even visited, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Controversial far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir toured the outdoor area of the Temple Mount plaza (Judaism's most sacred site) in May (not April). Neither he, nor any other "Israeli leader," entered, much less "raided" (!) the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In April, Israeli police (not "leaders") raided the Al Aqsa mosque after hundreds of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the building overnight with riot equipment as crowds of Jewish worshippers were expected at the Western Wall plaza below for Passover prayers the next day. As Associated Press reported at the time ("Violence in Jerusalem mosque prompts fears of wider fighting," April 5):

Israeli police said they moved in after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators” brought fireworks, sticks and stones and barricaded themselves into the mosque. Police said the youths chanted violent slogans and locked the front doors.

“After many and prolonged attempts to get them out by talking to no avail, police forces were forced to enter the compound in order to get them out,” police said.

Video released by police showed the repeated explosions of fireworks inside the mosque.

In addition, Schrader is also wrong to characterize Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Khader Adnan as a "detainee," a term connoting political prisoner. In fact, he had been charged for terror-related offenses. As Reuters reported: "Adnan was arrested and indicted in an Israeli military court on charges that included links to an outlawed group and incitement to violence, the Prisons Service said." (Emphasis added.) Just like Schrader omits mention of the Palestinian rioters in the Al-Aqsa mosque (citing only Palestinians "praying inside"), he also neglects to note that Adnan was charged with terror offenses.

His misreporting on Adnan also extends to the prisoner's death. Contrary to Schrader's reporting, it's not the case that Adnan "died in an Israeli prison." In fact, he was declared dead in an Israeli civilian hospital (Assaf Harofeh Hospital, aka Shamir Medical Center) while in Israeli custody. Schrader also does not disclose that Adnan starved himself to death in a hunger strike, refusing medical attention, leaving readers to wrongly guess that maybe he died from mistreatment in the prison.

Temple Sacrifices: Dispensing With the Truth

Schrader's reporting on the Temple Mount fares no better, likewise containing several errors. He states: "Judaism and Christianity also hold the hill the mosque sits on, known as the Temple Mount, as one of their holiest sites where a great temple is believed to have been built by King Solomon in biblical and Jewish texts." (Emphasis added.) The presence of the ancient Jewish temples on the Temple Mount is not a question of religious belief or biblical claims. Archeologists confirm the fact that the Jewish temples were located on the Temple Mount. As The New York Times was compelled to acknowledge in a 2015 correction:

An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.

Additional media outlets which have previously corrected after falsely casting the location of the ancient Jewish temples on the Temple Mount as merely a matter of Jewish belief include Reuters and Deutsche Welle.

In addition, the Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism, not "one of the holiest sites." (Though the Temple Mount is Islam's third holiest site, Schrader puts the site's status in Islam on the same footing as its importance in Judaism, reporting higher up in the story "the holy site is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque — one of Islam's holiest mosques. . . ") On the other hand, contrary to Schrader's reporting, the Temple Mount is not one of the most holiest sites in Christianity. Shouldn't clear reporting on a visit to the disputed site by a controversial Jewish Israeli politician note that it's Judaism's most sacred site, and the third most holy site in Islam?

Israel 'Escalating Tensions with Palestinians'

Similarly, in a completely skewed, one-sided and inaccurate sentence, Schrader writes:

Israel in recent months has been escalating tensions with Palestinians and other Arab nations, particularly relating to conflict over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, illegal Israeli settlements and raids on villages in Palestine.

This egregiously partisan reporting singling out Israel for "escalating tensions with Palestinians" completely ignores Palestinian actions which have escalated tensions. The aforementioned Israeli raids on Palestinian villages are a direct result of the fact Palestinians have carried out a wave of deadly Palestinian terror attacks including the April 7 murders of sisters Rina and Maia Dee and their mother Lucy as they drove to a family vacation; a Feb. 10 car-ramming attack in Jerusalem in which brothers Yaakov Israel (6) and Asher Menachem Pally (8) were among the three fatalities; a Palestinian terrorist massacred seven civilians outside a Jerusalem synagogue Jan. 27, 2023; and so many more deadly terror Palestinian terror attacks which claimed Israeli lives, almost all of them civilians.

Further Palestinian steps which escalated tensions include firing rockets at Israeli communities following Adnan's self-inflicted death, the establishment of West Bank cells to fire rockets and launch explosive drones, anti-Israel incitement, glorification to violence and countless other belligerent actions.

In addition, Schrader's reference to "illegal Israeli settlements" is inaccurate. Experts in international law who dispute this view include Prof. Julius Stone and former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow. In addition, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged in 2019 that “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” reverting to a position earlier voiced by President Reagan. Reagan had said: “As to the West Bank, I believe the settlements there — I disagreed when the previous Administration referred to them as illegal, they’re not illegal,” “Excerpts From Interview With President Reagan Conducted by Five Reporters,” New York Times, Feb. 3, 1981).

Media outlets which commendably corrected after unequivocally stating as fact that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law include Deutsche Welle  and Newsweek.

Finally, throughout the article, Schrader repeatedly and wrongly refers to the Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and/or Gaza Strip as "Palestine." (For examples, he cites "raids on villages in Palestine," "Officials from Jordan, Palestine and Turkey," and "a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.") References to modern “Palestine” in the West Bank and Gaza are inaccurate. Among the multiple media outlets which have corrected this identical point are The Associated Press The New York Times The New York Post, National Geographic, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters (including also in Arabic), Voice of America, and UPI, his very own media outlet.

Journalists of 2023 have resources which their predecessors of just a generation earlier could have only dreamed. The huge quantity of information easily accessible to today's reporters — literally at their fingertips — enables reporting from the comfort of home. And yet, with the advent of couch journalism, we may yet find ourselves looking back longingly to the imperfect lost art of parachute journalism.

Feb. 26, 2024 Update

In recent days, Adam Schrader reached out to CAMERA alleging that this post's initial inclusion of a photograph of him scarfing down pizza, which he shared on his online c.v., as well as an unremarkable screenshot of his LinkedIn profile photograph, are copyright infringements. In deference to Schrader's concern, we removed the photographs and uploaded an illustrative generated AI image of a "couch journalist." Though Schrader went to the trouble to object to the use of the photograph, he did not address the substance of any of the factual problems or journalistic failures detailed in this article.

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