When I was a girl, my paternal grandmother would religiously read the New York Times. For her, like many other Americans, it was a sign of being educated, cultured, of being a proud American up on world news and the times. She was proud to be a Jew but very very proud to be a Jewish American.
She would come over with homemade cookies and a dictionary and we would learn words like abase and abashed so that I would do well on my SAT’s and be able to read the NYTimes.
And so, I grew up aiming to be the type of person who read the NYTimes and used big words, and analyzed world affairs like any other proud, educated American.
So, imagine my identity crisis when the paper that symbolized everything I held as true, right, unbiased and American, published this photograph in 2000, of a young man, bloody and beaten, with the caption reading “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount.”
Clearly, this photo is insinuating that the Israeli policeman was beating a young Palestinian on the Temple Mount… But wait a minute, there are no gas stations on the Temple Mount… that can’t be right… what’s really going on here and who is checking the sources?
Anyone who wanted to verify the accuracy of this photo really didn’t need to look very far.
Clarity came quickly to the NYTimes when the boy’s father, Dr. Aaron Grossman of Chicago sent them a letter.
“Regarding your picture on page A5 of the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian on the Temple Mount — that Palestinian is actually my son, Tuvia Grossman, a Jewish student from Chicago. He, and two of his friends, were pulled from their taxicab while traveling in Jerusalem, by a mob of Palestinian Arabs, and were severely beaten and stabbed…”
While they printed a correction, actually two corrections because the first did not properly clarify the situation, the damage was done.
Slowly, but surely, the NYTimes became irrelevant to me.
The choice was either to read it and be outraged every time rocks and cement blocks hurled at cars (at times with deadly results) were called ‘stones’ and a ‘rite of passage’ for Palestinian youth…to be angry when whimsical tones and emotional language were employed for terrorists and their parents… dismayed when rockets raining down on Israeli civilians were only reported at the end of an article on Israeli military action and not clearly cited as the cause…and incredibly frustrated at a clear bias in headlines, reporting, language and photo usage (HonestReporting spells it out clearly).
Losing the NYTimes as a source of information was more than another newspaper getting it wrong. I’d come to expect it from The Guardian, the BBC, even CNN’s lack of balanced coverage didn’t hit me like that of the NYTimes. I’d always held it as above the rest, as the beacon of proper reporting and solid information.
It took me a while to really let go because I felt like I was letting my grandmother down, that my emotions on an issue might be clouding my judgement. With every additional slant, with every editorial choice that humanized terrorists and dehumanized Israelis, it became clear that in fact my emotions were clouding my judgment, but it wasn’t my emotions towards Israel, it was my emotions for my grandmother and her ideals and dreams for me that made me stick around far longer than I should have.
I haven’t even thought about the Times in a long time, but another recent galling photo choice has brought it to the fore once again. In reporting on the murder of a 19 year old newly conscripted soldier stabbed multiple times in the chest on a bus (as he slept – this fact missing from the NYTimes article) the accompanying photo was of… the terrorist’s mother.
The murdered youth isn’t shown, nor are his mourning parents, but the mother of the 16 year old who killed a sleeping teenager is shown. Most of the article is not even about the murder. I leave it to you to decide why.
And so, I say unabashedly:
New York Times-
You have tarnished yourselves in the eyes of those who saw you as a scion of truth, world issues and educated reason. You have caused those who identify as American Jews to have to defend their people from biased reporting in their chosen home from their chosen paper. You have chosen to print what you think people want to hear instead of the unbiased truth …and you have chosen wrong.