Glenn Franco Simmons
All humans have been created from the same dust.

Time Inc. strikes out with incomplete article & update

A Time article by Rebecca Collard on the October killing of a Palestinian terrorist by Israeli security forces failed to mention the three Israelis who were murdered by Baha Allyan.

“The magazine had resisted complaints from the Israeli government for months,” The Times of Israel noted. “It amended the story, albeit under the same headline but did not include an apology. …”

Problems started with the headline, which seemed to justify violence: “The Desperation Driving Young Palestinians to Violence”.

Furthermore, this headline should be limited to an op-ed, not above a news article, because it is an opinion.

By saying “young Palestinians” without using “some” as the modifier, Time is making a generalization about all Palestinian youth. Unless Time is clairvoyant, how would it know how all Palestinian youth feel?

Page capture of the Time article with Rebecca Collard's byline removed.
Page capture of the Time article with Rebecca Collard’s byline.

Many journalists are guided by a code of ethics. As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I follow SPJ’s code.

SPJ says reporters and news organizations should “gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.”

Part of Time’s “update” was at the end of the story: “This story has been updated to give a fuller account of the attack.”

To add insult to injury, Time didn’t even list the victims’ names, in the update. Oh, no. It hyperlinked two articles where the names were published in other publications.

Really Time, it’s not difficult to list the names and ages yourself: Haviv Haim, 78, Alon Govberg, 51, and American-Israeli Richard Lakin, 76,

Furthermore, by not fully disclosing why it updated the article, Time side-stepped transparency in favor of a cowardly attempt to save face and not own up to its significant breach of ethics surrounding the non-publication of the victims’ names and the non-publication of Allyan’s crimes in the original article.

SPJ’s code says reporters must “take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.”

Perhaps Time thinks omitting key facts like victims’ names is entirely appropriate. It isn’t.

Page capture of Rebecca Collard's story with her byline removed.
Page capture of Rebecca Collard’s story with her byline removed.

The update also included removing the reporter’s byline. With the Wayback Machine, it is simple to find out who wrote the article, so why would Time remove the byline?

Adding further insult to injury, the update did not include an apology. For reference, I’ve published apologies for subjects trivial in nature when compared to three murders.

SPJ says, “Never deliberately distort facts or context. …”

Even in a story about Allyan, Collard is ethically bound to include the fact that he killed three Israelis. If she couldn’t confirm it, then she could have said “alleged killer.” Not saying anything was an ethical breach by omission.

SPJ says: “Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.”

Waiting five months to update the story is not doing it quickly.

SPJ says: “Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.”

That is what I am doing here in an opinion post.

SPJ says: “Abide by the same high standards they {journalists} expect of others.”

Let’s try a hypothetical: What if an Israeli graphic artist killed three Palestinians? Would Collard treat the hypothetical murderer with the same sympathy found in her story for Allyan? Would she have ignored the Palestinian victims like she ignored the Israeli victims?

Time Inc. has called into question its objectivity and transparency by allowing a flawed article to be published in the first place, insufficiently updating it, casting a murderer sympathetically and removing a reporter’s byline.

(An email has been sent to Collard seeking her comment. If she comments, I will include it in a future column.)

About the Author
Glenn was an editor and publisher for many years. All of his columns are opinions and should not be confused with news stories.