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August 1, 2016 11:50 am

In Its Attack on Netanyahu, the New York Times Violates Its Own Anonymous Source Policy and Contradicts Itself

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Screenshot.

The New York Times has an ongoing public relations blitz about its supposed crackdown on the use of anonymous sources.

In March, the company made public an internal memo from its top news editors announcing “new procedures” with the goal “to protect our precious credibility.” The release of the memo was accompanied at the time by extensive coverage (“Tightening the screws on anonymous sources”…. “Building a better anonymouse trap”’) from the newspaper’s public editor.

An update last month from the new Times public editor and its associate managing editor for standards boasted, “In the four months since we laid out the new policies, we’ve seen a measurable drop in the prevalence of anonymous sourcing. (Precise numbers are hard to nail down, but our estimate would be in the range of a 30 percent decrease.) That’s good news.”

When does the Times’ new hard line against anonymous sources get ignored? Apparently, when the anonymous sources are complaining journalists at other news organizations. And especially, when those news organizations are not supportive of Israel or its elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Take this passage from a Times article published in Sunday’s paper under the headline: “How Benjamin Netanyahu Is Crushing Israel’s Free Press”:

“What can management do?” a Walla News journalist lamented to me. “We’re threatened here by a combination of the most powerful politician in the country and one of the most powerful commercial companies in the country.”

Walla News isn’t alone. An atmosphere of intimidation has begun to take hold in many, if not most, of the country’s newsrooms. A source in Israel Hayom, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, told me that the prime minister “holds everyone on a leash — everyone — not just us. With the other outlets, you might not realize what their interests are but they exist all the same.”

Never mind that this doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the Times’s own supposedly strict standards for anonymously sourced quotes. Anonymous or on-the-record, it’s nonsense. The global decline of the newspaper business means journalists everywhere — including at the New York Times — and not just in Israel are afraid of losing their jobs. Compared to the media in the neighboring Arab dictatorships and monarchies, Israel’s press is robustly free. If the Israeli press is as pusillanimous as the Times claims it is, no one is stopping anyone from starting up a new website or newspaper to compete with the existing outlets. The Times itself could open a Hebrew-language website if the demand for anti-Netanyahu news is as vast and unmet as the Times perfervidly fantasizes.

In fact, the Times’ own news coverage authoritatively rebuts the Times’ own claim. A dispatch from Jerusalem reports that “leaks of allegations and investigations large and small have gradually dripped out in Israel’s competitive media caldron.” Got that? One Times article says Israel has a “competitive media caldron.” The other one, published the day before, had claimed Netanyahu is crushing Israel’s free press. The two articles flatly contradict each other. It’s almost enough to make a reader suspicious that the Times isn’t concerned about any objective truth, but is just trying to make Israel, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, look bad.

The dispatch from Jerusalem is not without its own flaws. It claims, for example, that Mr. Netanyahu “draws support by stoking Israeli Jews’ security fears.” It’s as if those fears were entirely manufactured by Netanyahu, rather than, say, the result of rockets raining down from Gaza-based Hamas terrorists or of Palestinian-Arab stabbing and bombing attacks aimed at Israeli and American civilians in buses and cafes. And it’s as if increased security fears help Mr. Netanyahu, rather than possibly pushing Israeli voters into the arms of politicians more dovish or hawkish than he in search of peace or security that the incumbent is failing to provide.

But the Times dispatch from Jerusalem does quote “Raviv Drucker, an investigative journalist at Israel’s Channel 10” and “Amiel Ungar, a political scientist and columnist,” both critical of Mr. Netanyahu. And it hyperlinks to two Jerusalem Post articles, two Ha’aretz stories and a Ynet piece about investigations of Mr. Netanyahu. If Mr. Netanyahu were really crushing Israel’s free press the way the Times claimed in the first article, would these stories even exist to hyperlink to, or would these journalists even exist to quote? In a genuinely unfree press environment, such as the ones in Israel’s neighborhood, those journalists would be tortured, beheaded, savagely beaten or tossed into grim prisons. They would not be granting interviews to the New York Times.

I emailed two editors at the New York Times to ask for an explanation of the apparent failure to comply with the anonymous source policy in this case. So far, I have gotten no response. Maybe the Times editors were waiting for me to offer them anonymity?

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.  

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Isahiah62

    well they don;t need a NY SLIMES in Israel b/c there is already an anti Israel newspaper in English called Haaretz.

    AND I am betting this crackdown on ANONYMOUS sources has a lot less to do with Israel coverage, than making sure the leaks about Clinton never see daylight in USA before elections.

  • Reform School

    “……innuendo planted to serve someone’s ends.”
    For nearly 100 years, editorial bias has “Left” the Times fit for little beside wrapping fish or wiping ends!

    With the New York Times, Washington and Huffington Posts, ASSociated Press, ABC, BBC, NPR and countless other “news” outfits reinforcing the worldwide social engineering begun in schools and colleges, is it any wonder that shame is in such short supply?

    That master criminals like the Clintons, not only avoid jail, but have a stranglehold on the mindsets of dumbed down, inexperienced students, hyped-up and ready to return them to the White House, even after their 2-term limit has already been exceeded? .

  • al talena

    The tragedy is that most American Jews agree with the NY Slimes as they are activists for the agenda of others but their own.

  • one msut be way of such sources which are too often not permiited to contradict Its simile in law ad hominem fallacy of belief in “experts” little more than based on perception than in depth exploration for truth…commonly referred to as the expediency of law…in news media, “ssensationalism: prevails. The Time has likewise defamed great artist and novelists as “perverse”…beware that behavioral language is abstract and not concrete

  • Jimmie

    What really bugs NYT about Netanyahu is that reality has shown that he understands the situation in the Middle East far better than any of the “journalists” NYT has sent to cover the region. That makes them look stupid, and the last thing Leftists can tolerate is a public demonstration that they’re stupid.

  • Paul Leber

    Given it’s the New York Times, an anti-Israeli bias can’t be a surprise to anyone! The old gray lady’s policy, its declared motto to the contrary notwithstanding, is alway to print “all the news that fits.”

  • Leon Poddebsky

    “The New York Times” is one of Obama’s levers of power.
    Obama desperately wants to overturn Israel’s voters’ choice of Netanyahu. Hence the “Times'” anti-democratic anti-Netanyahu campaign has recently reached new heights of stridency and depths of degradation for that newspaper and its patron, Obama.

    There was a time when antisemites called that newspaper “The Jew York Times” even though its history of tacit collaboration with antisemites was appalling.
    Today a fitting name for it would be “The anti-Jew York Times.”

  • I think you just shot yourself in the leg.
    In order to criticize the NYT, you choose the very problematic issue of what in Israel is TOTALLY observed as Bibi’s actions to take over the press.
    His actions were just echoed by his pet minister Miri Regev, who is quoted as saying it is inconceivable that the minister in charge cannot control what the journalists in the public radio say. )She sai, “What, do you want to let then just say what they want ?”.
    And who is the Minister in charge ? Bibi – he is hanging on to the Ministry of Communications. After running his own newspaper, distributed free, for many years.
    The fact that a journalist is afraid to identify himself by name here is a terrible reflection on the evolving reality here – and you chose to use that example to bach the NYT.
    WOW !

  • I think Mr Stoll is doing Israel a disservice when he compares the Israeli media with that of our Arab neighbours. If a comparison is to be drawn, then compare Israel to the Western democracies, Britain and America, but of course not The New York Times.

  • stevenl

    NYT, leader of international mass media antisemitism.
    Slowly but surely they will sink. The lefties will swallow any s…t printed on the NYT.

  • Sara Springer

    We are speaking of the NY Slimes after all. We can only hope that Trump is right. In a few years this pathetic excuse for Journalism will go bankrupt.

  • “I emailed two editors at the New York Times to ask for an explanation of the apparent failure to comply with the anonymous source policy in this case. So far, I have gotten no response. Maybe the Times editors were waiting for me to offer them anonymity?”


  • manley kiefer

    Many news sources willjump from one side of the fence to the other whenever it will get them more circulation. Business is business.

  • Rachel Cohen

    The NYT–is run by godless Marxist globalists–they support every evil under the sun–as good and normal.

  • Thom McCann

    A media savvy editor said,
    “None of our faculty are media without merit. At the very least they can be held up as a worst example.”

    The Times finds it difficult to admit errors or apologize.

    In one Sunday Week in Review they admitted that a drawing of a whale in an article had been printed upside down.

    But, not leaving it at that, they showed a drawing of an upside-down whale and stated that “whales sometimes swim upside down.”

    The American Council for Judaism was formed in 1942 solely to fight the creation of a Jewish state—while 20,000 Jews were being sent to the German gas chambers every day.

    One of its founding members was NY Times owner Arthur Hays Sulzberger.

    Now we can understand the Times pro-Palestinian stance today.

    Matt Seaton, staff editor for the Times opinion section said that the NY Times will not scrutinize Palestinian racism “until Palestinians have a sovereign state of their own.”(Algemeiner, Oct 30, 2014)

    Does that also apply to Hezbollah, ISIS, the Moslem Brotherhood, the Taliban, Al Queda, etc.?

    They have biased religious Muslims, Catholics, gays, bisexuals, and the dregs of society writing on a regular basis or as columnists.

    They will never hire an Orthodox writer or journalist to present the Orthodox take on a subject—especially a religious one.

    Would the Times send a fashion writer to a world-wide nuclear proliferation meeting in Geneva?

    The Times did that when it sent a writer to the Orthodox “Siyum” where 90,000 Jews had gathered in the New Jersey stadium and had completed the seven-year cycle of learning the 2411 pages of Talmud.

    The writer interviewed a few people but wrote nothing at all about what the numerous speakers had to say (in English) on the subject of Torah learning.

    Reading the article was meaningless in understanding this major, religious, Jewish event.

    Why not assign a knowledgeable Orthodox writer who knows Orthodox Judaism to report on Orthodox Judaism?

    There are plenty out there.

    That will never happen at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, NY Times.

    • Reform School

      A for-profit business, the following does not apply to the New York Times, but does apply to some competitors. Section 501 (c) of the Internal Revenue code provides tax-free status to not-for-profit “educational” and similar entities, as long as they refrain from electoral politics and candidate endorsements. Everywhere in the United States of America, tax-eempt schools broadcast and distribute online the programs of National Public Radio and the BBC Whirled Service. As the media voice of the Democratic National Committee, both ignore that restriction, yet neither the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Communications Commission that harass entities identified as Conservative or Republican by malfeasance and nonfeasance permit the law-breaking with impunity, if not immunity. Where is the voice of the People, if the Media are bribed?

  • ART

    The NYT has an impeccable record of Attacking Israel and Jewish causes. In the early 1950’s the NYT blew the lid off the secret rescue of Jews from behind the Iron Curtain their article resulted in the downing of an airplane and the loss of some 60 lives. In the early 1980’s they NYT compromised the rescue of Ethiopian Jews. Throughout WWII the NYT down played the final solution. The NYT has published incorrect articles and phoney photos

  • Jay Lavine

    The idea of getting away from anonymous sources is a good one, though. Usually when we read that there is a “report” that such and such happened, we ultimately find out that it was completely false, mere rumor or innuendo planted to serve someone’s ends.

    A particularly objectionable line in an article is that so-and-so was being quoted anonymously because he or she wasn’t authorized to speak to the news media. Well, if someone isn’t authorized to speak to the media, then why is he or she doing so? What does it say about the person’s credibility?