An internal editorial discussion at The New York Times has come to light, revealing debates and concerns among editors and reporters about a news story involving a Gaza hospital. According to a report by Vanity Fair, this discussion took place on an internal Slack channel, where several individuals expressed reservations regarding the veracity of the information, especially given the Palestinian source.
The initial story was published with the headline “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinian Officials Say.” However, some senior editors and reporters cautioned against relying solely on Palestinian sources for the story.
After the initial version was published, a senior editor proposed a more direct lead for the story. The proposed lead stated, “At least 500 people were killed on Tuesday by an Israeli airstrike at a hospital in Gaza City, the Palestinian authorities said.” This led to a debate among the editors and reporters, with some advocating for hedging the information and expressing doubt about its accuracy. A junior reporter on the ground in Israel also suggested caution.
The senior news editor defended the decision, stating that they were attributing the headline’s claim to Palestinian officials, suggesting they were not responsible for the accuracy of the claim. However, an international editor disagreed, stating that the front page headline went too far, even with attribution. The debate continued, with one senior editor comparing it to a blog post title with a similar claim based on Palestinian sources.
In the aftermath of the story’s publication, it was revealed that the information provided by the Palestinian officials was false. The explosion at the hospital was caused by a rocket fired by Gaza-based terrorists, not an Israeli strike. Furthermore, the rocket landed in a parking lot, not the hospital itself. The estimated death toll was also significantly lower, with likely casualties ranging between 10 and 50.
The New York Times later attempted to rectify the situation, acknowledging that they had relied heavily on claims by Hamas and failed to clarify the unverified nature of these claims. They issued a statement admitting that the report had left readers with an incorrect impression of the credibility and knowledge surrounding the incident.
This internal discussion highlights the challenges and responsibilities that news organizations face when reporting on sensitive and contentious topics, particularly when relying on sources from conflict zones.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 25, 2023