Jerusalem, 7 February, 2023 (TPS) — An academic study backs up what critics of the New York Times have been arguing for years: that the leading U.S. paper is biased against Israel.
A Bar Ilan University study of the paper’s coverage of Israel during 2022 found what it called a “failure to cover terror organization activity during the peak terror year of 2022.” The initial findings were published on Sunday in the Israeli daily, Maariv. The full academic report will be released later this year.
Lilac Sigan, an Israeli journalist and author monitored the paper’s coverage of Israel each day. Sigan, a reporter at Maariv, worked in collaboration with Bar Ilan’s Professor Eytan Gilboa. Professor Gilboa is the director of the Bar Ilan’s Center for International Communication.
“I wanted to see if the anti-Israel attitude would change under a different kind of government. It was a new kind of concept and I wanted to see how Israel was portrayed this year,” Sigan told the Tazpit Press Service. Israel was led by a Center-Left coalition which included an Arab party for the first time.
“I picked the New York Times because I think it’s the most important American newspaper and it influences a lot of Jews,” Sigan told TPS. “It’s very well-respected among other media outlets and it influences what other media outlets do. It’s not the only liberal media outlet out there, but it’s definitely one of the leaders.”
The Times‘ reach is considerable with a print circulation of 750,000 subscribers and 8.6 million digital subscribers. According to Similar Web, which ranks website traffic, the Times had 644 million visits to its website in the past month.
Sigan said she read all the articles, op-eds, live updates and more about Israel published in the paper. Articles that mentioned Israel only incidentally were set aside. Wire reports from Associated Press and Reuters published in the Times were included in the study, “but at least 90 percent of the coverage was original to the New York Times,” Sigan said.
That left 361 articles which were graded by Sigan, Gilboa and two other Bar Ilan researchers as either positive, negative or neutral. Of those, 192, or 53% were negative about Israel.
The Times‘s biggest problem, according to Sigan, was turning a blind eye to Palestinian terror.
‘Coverage Like This Generates Hatred’
Explaining the paper’s imbalanced coverage, Sigan said that there were only eight articles about the terror organizations Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Of those, four were negative.
“It tells me they’re not covering terror organizations. It’s like terror organizations don’t exist. If you’re a New York Times reader, you’ll think there’s no terror in Israel. You’ll see articles about ‘Israeli aggression,’ but you don’t get the information behind what’s happening,” Sigan said.
“In my opinion this is the worst kind of bias. People form their opinions while only getting half the story. It’s legitimate to criticize Israel, but it’s not legitimate to omit half of the information and not tell half the story. Coverage like this generates hatred, not legitimate criticism.”
Sigan told TPS that the problematic pattern emerged from the very first day.
“I started following the Times on Jan. 1, 2022. It was Saturday. At 7:30 AM, two rockets were launched from Gaza. I said to myself, ‘That’s an interesting thing to happen on the first day of my study.’ I waited to see how the Times would describe it. And I saw they had nothing. They didn’t report it,” she recalled.
“So I realized I had to keep track of major events widely covered in Israel that are not reported by the Times. They can’t report on every rocket launch or every Palestinian who attacks with a knife, but you expect to see general references to what’s going on. They are very reluctant to report about terror events. They only reported attacks with multiple deaths. There were lots of articles about the IDF raids, but not the terror-ridden lives of Israel.”
“According to Shabak [the Israel Security Agency], there were over 2,600 terror incidents in 2022 of which 204 were significant. And the New York Times made it look like there were only five deadly attacks in 2022. Terror in Israel peaked in 2022 over the past decade, but the Times stated in only two or three articles that there were five deadly attacks,” Sigan stressed.
The study noted that the Times dedicated 24 articles to the accidental killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, “compared to 16 articles to all of the other journalists that were killed around the world in the line of duty in 2022. In total, 65 journalists were killed, 15 of them in Ukraine, most of whose deaths went unreported.”
The study also found that the Times “published 20 negative op-eds about Israel and only 13 about Iran – during the year that included the ‘hijab protests.’”
Sigan presented the Times with an op-ed explaining the findings, but the paper declined to publish it. “They said they’d pass, but I was welcome to submit other articles in the future. I didn’t expect they would publish it,” Sigan told TPS. “New York Times readers need to know they’re not getting the full picture. I intend to get this message out in any way that I can.”
Professor Gilboa wasn’t available to comment, but a Bar Ilan spokesperson told TPS, “?A follow up study on the Times is possible but too early to tell.”