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SUCCESS – Photo Outrage: New York Times Admits It Got It Wrong

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The New York Times has responded to our criticism of the paper’s appalling choice of photo accompanying its story on the murder of an Israeli soldier.

Yet the photo remains online with the story. What happened?

Your emails to NY Times Public EditorMargaret Sullivan certainly caught her attention. In her column she writes:

Hundreds of readers wrote to me in recent days to protest the prominent use of a photograph that accompanied an article in The Times last Thursday.

The photograph was an emotional and sympathetic portrait of a distraught Palestinian woman, whose son had killed an unsuspecting young Israeli soldier on a public bus. Although it was a powerful image (in fact, partly because it was such a powerful image), it was a poor choice, failing to put the focus where it belonged.


Sullivan then goes on to quote two HonestReporting subscribers who expressed their outrage and continues (emphasis added):

I spoke on Monday afternoon to two senior editors at The Times. Both agreed that the photo was a regrettable choice. The dominant image with an article should reflect the overall point of the article and the reason for its newsworthiness.

“This did not represent the essence of the story, which was clearly the moment of the Israeli soldier being stabbed,” said Michele McNally, the assistant managing editor in charge of photography. She said a less-senior picture editor chose the photograph, along with one representing what she considered the other side of the story, which showed an Israeli police officer at the crime scene.

The selection of the Palestinian mother’s image with the article was an effort to achieve balance, but such an effort was not appropriate in this case, Ms. McNally said. In the print editions of the newspaper, the two photographs were published on an inside page with the Palestinian photograph above the other. On the website and in other digital presentations, the Palestinian photograph was by far the more dominant image and remains so.

It was only later in the news cycle that photographs of the soldier’s funeral — which would have been an appropriate choice for a dominant image — became available, she said. (A photograph of the victim would also have been appropriate, she said.)

“We should have waited for that or substituted it once it came,” she said.

While the comments of Times staff are welcome, it is still a major concern that the photo was chosen in an effort to show balance.  This is indicative of a disturbing mindset at the newspaper. There should be no balance or moral equivalence between Palestinian terror and Israeli victims.


The acknowledgment of fault by the New York Times is a significant achievement and clearly demonstrates the power that thousands of HonestReporting subscribers have when they share and promote material on platforms such as Facebook and send emails to the media.

Which is why we are asking for your activism once again.

Despite admitting the error, the New York Times has failed to replace the photo with a more suitable image.

While it may be too late for the print edition, why is the original photo still there online? In any profession, when a mistake is made, there are attempts to fix it. But not, it seems, in the case of the NY Times.

HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams said:

When the NY Times Readers Editor acknowledges reader outrage explaining that a sense of ‘drama’ and ‘art’ influenced their current event news-making, you have a choice; You can celebrate the recognition by Big Media for having been infected by post-modern values leading to moral equivalence and prejudiced journalism. Or you can re-double your disbelief, hearing that the error is allowed to remain.

He expanded on the issue in a Times of Israel commentary.

We also believe that a correction should appear in the print edition of the NY Times and not only online in Sullivan’s column as it appears to be at this moment.

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  • Published: 10 years ago on November 20, 2013
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  • Last Modified: November 20, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
  • Filed Under: International

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