Inexcusable, irresponsible reporting


From Maurice Ostroff September 16, 2012
I don''t fault you for publishing unfavorable material about Israel when accurate and verifiable, but this letter is an earnest appeal to please check your facts before publishing harmful information that is untrue and to please ensure that opinions are not presented as facts.
I refer for example to the grossly misleading banner headline in Haaretz English issue of May 18, "Kfar Sava hospital bans teaching staff from speaking Arabic", which of course is completely untrue. The inconspicuous correction that you published after I protested cannot undo the harm caused by your original report which has been and continues to be reproduced internationally.
Now, on September 12 Haaretz carried the following bold misleading headline, despite the fact that earlier on the same day information was available on the internet exposing the fact that the filmmaker, referred to in the Haaretz article, is neither Jewish nor Israeli. Nor is his real name Bacile.



The Haaretz report misleadingly points to Jewish money and Israeli culpability. It describes Bacile as a man who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew who believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam''s flaws and that the movie cost $5 million financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors.

Of course Haaretz should have been cautious about the original AP report that was not based on a face to face interview, but on a phone call from an unknown person who called himself Bacile. Evidently AP didn''t even endeavor to authenticate his identity by asking for a phone number so that they could call him back.

If not for the fact-checking by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg who initially revealed the falseness of the claims, there is no doubt that the anger of the mobs would have been turned on Israel and the Jews.

As we should expect from every responsible journalist, Goldberg was careful to check his facts. In an article published in the Atlantic on September 12, titled "Muhammad- Film Consultant: ''Sam Bacile'' Is Not Israeli, and Not a Real Name", Goldberg wrote that as part of his search for more information about Sam Bacile, he called Steve Klein, the promoter of the film, something that Haaretz could and should have done. In addition Haaretz could and should have checked with several others known to have been associated with the film.

With respect, I suggest that the code of ethics of the US Society of Professional Journalists be compulsory reading by all Haaretz staff with emphasis on its exhortation to "Seek Truth and Report It" and its principles that journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible and journalists should make certain that headlines do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context