2006-09-15 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

The New York Times: Perspective Versus Balance
By Howard Schwach


Despite what progressives like John Paul Culotta think, there are many who agree with my contention that the New York Times slanted its coverage towards the terrorists who were fighting the Israeli Army in Lebanon.

So many, in fact, that the Public Editor of the Times, Byron Calame, took up the question in last Sunday's edition of This Week In Review."

You have to remember that progressives bridle at the way the poor terrorist fighters of Hamas and Hezbollah are treated by the big, bad Israeli Government.

Culotta even wrote in a recent column that there is a secret deal for Hamas and Hezbollah to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish nation, the first step to a peace settlement and if the Israeli's would only stop attacking those innocent terrorists, everything would be fine.

I'll tell you how the two terrorist groups recognize Jews in general and Israel in particular.

"Hey look over there. Those are Jews with their own democratic nation. Let's kill them all and push their bodies into the Mediterranean Sea."

That's the way Hamas and Hezbollah recognize Israel and the only ways they will ever recognize that nation.

In any case, Calame wrote, "Few issues elicit complaints from readers like the coverage of the Middle East, and a surge of protests was triggered by the Times' use of pictures to convey the story in the recent Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. Most of the complaining readers argued that the pictures favored Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerilla group, but some -especially early in the fighting-felt the paper sided with Israel."

Notice that nowhere in that introduction does the writer note that the battle was between a legitimate nation and a terrorist group that had taken over the southern half of another sovereign nation.

Calame decided to study the question and came up with the opinion that the Times did just about as well as it could do,

"I found the photographic coverage over all was basically fair in representing the relative impact of the conflict on the two countries and their populations (emphasis is mine)."

Is Calame a little mixed up when he used the term "two countries?" Is he talking about the country of Hezbollah? Is he talking about Lebanon, a nation that allowed Hezbollah to take over its Southern frontier and take continued pot shots at Israel?

"While fairness cannot be determined solely by the numbers of pictures in a given situation like this, there is one statistic to keep in mind: the death toll," he writes. "Nearly 1,500 Lebanese died, most of them civilians. This is more than seven times as many as the roughly 150 Israelis, most soldiers, who died, according to The Times' latest estimates.

Wait a minute. 150 Israelis died, most of them military, he says. How about the kids who were killed in the school, were they soldiers as well? Even given those statistics, does he mean to say that of the 1,500 who died in Lebanon that less than 150 were Hezbollah soldiers? Or, does he mean to say that all of the Hezbollah soldiers that were continuously lobbing rockets at Israeli population centers were all civilians because they are guerillas?

By his own admission, there were eight times as many photos of Lebanese coffins and bodies as there were Israeli. Eight times as many. Does he think that's unfair coverage? Of course not.

"The focus on the death toll led me to review the number of Times pictures depicting corpses and coffins," he wrote. "There were about eight times as many photographs of Lebanese as of Israelis, a ratio roughly comparable to the overall one for deaths during the conflict."

"We really try to reflect what happens on the ground," Foreign Editor Susan Chira told Calame. "We are extremely conscious of death tolls. It would be unfair to the truth to do otherwise."

In addition, eight times as many photographs of destruction of property in Lebanon appeared on page one in relation to property damage in Israel.

"The editors had to shape their photographic coverage however, with the knowledge that the access of Times photographers to the death and suffering on each side was not equal. Hezbollah was providing 'tours' of the human and physical damage inflicted by Israeli attacks at the same time that Israel was refusing to allow photographers to accompany its soldiers into Lebanon," an editor told Calame.

How about pictures of the fighters themselves?

According to Calame, there were eighteen photos of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon (although none of them mentioned the reason for the incursion - the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers). Most of those showed Israeli soldiers firing artillery into Lebanon.

How many pictures were there of Hezbollah guerillas throwing rockets into Israel? Actually, there were none.

"Times readers got hardly any photographs of Hezbollah fighters. Photographers were actively discouraged from taking pictures of them," he admits.

While Calame considers that imbalance "fair," I doubt that many readers who are not progressives like Culotta would agree.

Seven times as many photos showing dead Arabs than dead Jews just because the Israelis have better bomb shelters (something that Calame seems to think is somehow unfair)! What's up with that?

And, it continues even after the end of the fighting.

In Sunday's paper, The Times ran a story that began above the fold (the most preferred spot) about how more Muslims are coming to live in the United States after a decline right after 9/11.

The story paints a happy picture of all the Muslims who come to America to "find freedom" and are bothered by the government's reaction to Muslims after 9/11.

"Many have made the journey unbowed by the tales of immigrant hardship, and despite their own opposition to American policy in the Middle East. They come seeking the same promise that has drawn foreigners to the United States for many decades, according to a range of experts and immigrants: economic opportunity and political freedom," says writer Andrea Elliott. "Those lures, both powerful and familiar, have been enough to conquer fears that America is an inhospitable place for Muslims."

Typical New York Times progressive, politically-correct tripe.

People such as Culotta and his ilk, however, will continue to both read it and believe it.

After all, all of the Muslims really recognize Israel's legitimacy. It's all those warlike, Rambo and John Wayne warmongers in Israel and the United States who won't let the Middle East live in peace.

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