Correction Requested From The Boston Globe
A Boston Globe editorial published September 6, 2014 incorrectly referred to an "Israeli seizure of 1,000 acres." On September 15, The Boston Globe published three different responses to the editorial, two anti-Israel and one pro-Israel, all of which also incorrectly referred to an Israeli seizure of land.
A request for a correction was sent to the editor of The Boston Globe on September 15, 2014. Copies were sent to Peter Canellos, editor of the editorial page; Dante Ramos, deputy managing editor of the editorial page; Matthew Bernstein, letters editor; and Lawrence Harmon, editorial writer.
The first item below is the text of that request; it is followed by the ensuing correspondence.
Dear Mr. McGrory:
The September 6 editorial, "Israeli seizure of 1,000 acres is wrong move at wrong time," and three letters published today, September 15, all included the same, basic factual error: they all falsely stated that Israel had seized land in the disputed territories.
Israel did not seize any land. Rather, after appropriate investigation, Israel concluded the land in question was not privately owned. In keeping with its open and democratic nature, Israel did not keep that conclusion secret and is even providing the opportunity for anyone who believes its conclusion was incorrect to come forth with evidence.
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists stipulates journalists should "acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly."
I request that you act in accordance with that code and issue an appropriate correction.
Alan Stein, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, PRIMER-Connecticut
Promoting Responsibility In Middle East Reporting
Sent September 22:Dear Mr. McGrory:
It's possible that The Boston Globe has issued a correction about the factual error I pointed out in an email a week ago and I somehow missed noticing it, but I suspect this issue simply fell through the cracks during the changes relating to the resignation of Peter Canellos from his position as Editor of the Editorial Page.
Under that assumption, I am including the original email I sent to you and again request an appropriate correction be issued, both in accordance with the ethical standards of professional journalism and your responsibility to your readers.
Received September 24:Dear Mr. Stein,
Thank you for your query, and for your continued interest in our pages. I regret that your original note find its way to me. I just searched our e-mail queue, firstname.lastname@example.org, and found no sign of it there. It's possible that it might have been snagged on an e-mail filter.
As for your request for a correction, none is warranted. The usage of the term "seize" in both the editorial and subsequent letters is open to interpretation, both politically and by definition. And, in fact, the third of the three letters actually makes the point that the land in question is technically under Israeli control, and had been seized by Jordan in the late 1940s.
I would consider a letter to the editor offering your viewpoint on Israel's official position on ownership of the land, but I can't guarantee I would publish it at this point, as it has been more than two weeks since the original editorial.
I do encourage you to write again in the future.
Sent to Mr. Bernstein on September 24:Dear Mr. Bernstein,
Thank you for your response. However, I find your response unsatisfactory.
While there are slight variations in definitions given for the term "seize," they all involve the taking of property that had been owned by another party. This was manifestly not the case in the Israeli announcement, which essentially simply clarified the fact that its investigation had determined the land was not privately owned.
It is true that many other newspapers, even some in Israel, have also incorrectly used the term "seize," as did the writer of that third letter. This makes the error in The Boston Globe understandable, but does not make it permissible.
If you are able to show me a legitimate definition of "seize" from a reputable reference which applies to your usage, I will withdraw my request; otherwise, I repeat my request that an appropriate correction be issued.
Received from Ellen Clegg, the new editor of the editorial page, on September 26.Dear Alan,
Brian McGrory forwarded your email to me. We do not believe the editorial was in error. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please send it along to me and I'll forward it. After Peter Canellos left the paper, I was assigned to be editor of the editorial page.
Sent to Ms. Clegg September 27:Dear Ms. Clegg:
Congratulations on your new position as editor of the editorial page and thank you for responding to my request for a correction.
I did receive a response, on September 24, from Matthew Bernstein, to my second request for a correction. As I pointed out to Mr. Bernstein, every definition I've seen for the term "seize" involves a taking of ownership from another, previous owner. Since the Israeli announcement that its investigation had shown the property in question was not privately owned, there was no "seizure" of land unless there is another, obviously obscure, definition of "seize" which has eluded me.
In other words, unless there is such an obscure definition of "seize," your editorial, as well as all three letters, contained the same factual error. If you are able to cite such a definition, I will withdraw my request for a correction; if not, I again request a correction.
Sent to Ms. Clegg and Mr. Bernstein October 13:Dear Ms. Clegg and Mr. Bernstein:
Since it's been two weeks since our last communication, I am assuming you are willing to neither issue a correction regarding the incorrect characterization of Israel's determination regarding the legal status of approximately 1,000 acres of land in the Gush Etzion area as a "seizure" nor provide a reference to a definition of "seize" which does not involve the taking of land from another owner.
I am unwilling to write a letter correcting your error, since I believe it is your obligation to correct your errors. I would be interested in writing an op-ed describing the situation, the provisions for correcting errors according to various codes of ethics for journalists and our correspondence. (Obviously, this could not be done under the constraints of a letter to the editor.) Please let me know if you would be willing to give such an op-ed fair consideration.
I have, however, composed the following letter about today's article, "Donors pledge $5.4b to Gaza Strip," and request that you consider it for publication. A suggested headline would be "Going back to the status quo in Gaza should not be an option."
The letter submitted will not be posted until either The Boston Globe publishes it or it's clear The Globe won't publish it.