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October 2, 2016 7:03 am

Two New York Times Corrections Signal Problems in Coverage of Jews, Israel

avatar by Ira Stoll

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A Star of David. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A Star of David. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The corrections column of the New York Times is a fine window into the errors in the newspaper’s coverage of Israel and Jewish matters. In recent days, it has included two items worthy of note.

Friday’s correction column had this one:

The Personal Health column on Tuesday, about resilience after the death of a spouse, misstated the length of the Jewish period of mourning for a spouse. It is 30 days, not a year. (The one-year period is for those who have lost a parent.)

That correction follows a series of similar New York Times corrections in the past six months on other matters of Jewish literacy, including whether beef tenderloin is kosher and how many pages are in the Talmud. The paper just can’t seem to write about this stuff without getting things wrong.

And Thursday’s Times correction column featured another Jewish-related correction, this one belatedly rectifying an error that I pointed out in The Algemeiner a month earlier. The original Times article had reported, “With the influence of conservative Judaism on the rise in Israel, a country long dominated by secular elites is struggling with its identity and values.” I had written in response, “What’s ‘on the rise’ in Israel isn’t ‘conservative Judaism,’ but Orthodox Judaism.”

Sure enough, on Thursday the Times belatedly acknowledged its error, conceding, “Because of an editing error, an article on Aug. 29 about a crackdown by Israel’s culture ministry on immodest dress at government-sponsored musical events misidentified the strain of Judaism that is holding more influence in the current Israeli government. It is Orthodox Judaism, not Conservative Judaism.”

The inclusion of the phrase “because of an editing error” suggests that it was an editor, and not the new Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Peter Baker, who was to blame for the mistake.

A recent Times dispatch under Mr. Baker’s byline reports, “Former President Bill Clinton, host of the Oslo ceremony that marked Mr. Peres’s greatest achievement, headed straight from the airport to visit the coffin.”

It seems to me that “Peres’s greatest achievement” wasn’t the Oslo Accord but rather Israel’s nuclear deterrent. In the spirit of the High Holidays, I am going to give Mr. Baker a pass on that one and assume that it, too, was “an editing error.”

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

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