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July 6, 2022 11:31 am

Yet Another Correction for Error-Prone New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief

avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Chalk up yet another correction for the New York Timeserror-prone Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley.

The latest Times correction to a Kingsley article reads: “An article on Thursday about Unilever’s decision to sell Ben & Jerry’s business after controversy surrounding the company’s pledge to discontinue sales in the occupied West Bank described incorrectly the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. While most of the world officially considers the West Bank to be occupied, and the settlements there illegal, there is no consensus that the occupation itself is illegal.”

These corrections are better than nothing, but they are unsatisfactory.

For one thing, a lot of the Times audience is now online rather than in print, and the online audience doesn’t always see the corrections to articles they already read. It wouldn’t be hard for a company as vast as the Times to develop technology that would “push” the corrections to online readers — “Hello dear reader, we corrected this article that our records show you clicked on and read before we corrected it, so we thought we would let you know.” But the Times doesn’t bother with that.

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Also, the published corrections give the false impression that the rest of the articles — the uncorrected parts — are correct. That, alas, is untrue.

What’s more, sometimes the corrections include their own inaccuracies. What, for example, is the basis of the claim that “most of the world officially considers the West Bank to be occupied”? Did the Times do a worldwide poll? Does “most of the world” know enough about the complexity of the situation to have an informed opinion, or live in a context where they would feel free to express it? The false precision of “officially” is a mismatch with the vague “most of the world.”

And finally, the frequency and number of the corrections make Times readers wonder whether the Times team is capable of getting the news right the first time around. Though it may not be immediately obvious to readers here, I tend to cut Kingsley and other Times reporters and editors a lot of slack. They are writing a lot of articles on tight deadlines, dealing with a lot of facts. Mistakes happen, and they aren’t always the product of bias or negligence. Sometimes people get tired or distracted even when they are sincerely trying their best. These articles are produced by human beings, not robots. Even careful and experienced journalists sometimes get things wrong and have to publish corrections. I know this from personal experience.

Still, it’s unusual to see a Times journalist with this many corrections. It’s a pattern. And it was entirely predictable. Back when Kingsley was appointed to the job, in October 2020, I wrote about it under the headline, “Newly Appointed New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Has History of Mistakes in Israel Coverage.” Kingsley has since more than reinforced his reputation as error-prone. It’s the sort of thing the Times public editor might look into, if the Times hadn’t eliminated the position.

As it is, if the Times isn’t selecting Jerusalem bureau chiefs on the basis of journalistic accuracy, one wonders what the hiring criteria are. Why haven’t Kingsley’s Times editors figured out by now that his copy needs to be gone over super-skeptically with a fine-toothed fact-checking comb? The editors don’t have their names on the articles the way Kingsley does, but they, too, bear some of the responsibility here for the lack of a baseline standard of accuracy.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His 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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