LA Times and New York Times Magazine see staff dissent over Gaza war coverage

LA Times and New York Times Magazine see staff dissent over Gaza war coverage
The dissent came as over a thousand journalists had signed an open letter slamming Israel's killing of journalists in Gaza, as well as Western coverage of the war.
2 min read
17 November, 2023
According to reports the Los Angeles Times have suspended staff members who signed a letter criticising Israel's war on Gaza from covering the war for three months [Photo by Michael Buckner/Penske Media via Getty Images]

The Los Angeles Times (LA Times) and New York Times Magazine (NYT) have seen internal dissent over their coverage of Israel's war on Gaza.

At the LA Times, at least a dozen staff members were reportedly suspended from working on Israel's war on Gaza after signing a letter criticising Israel's conduct in the war.

According to Semafor staffers who signed the letter which criticised both Israel's killing of journalists and Western news outlets' coverage of the war, they will not be allowed to cover the conflict for three months.

This was confirmed by LA Times reporter Suhauna Hussain who signed the letter, posting on X, formerly Twitter.

"Yes, it's true we've been taken off coverage, which in effect removes a great many Muslim journalists and most [if] not all Palestinians at the LA Times from coverage."

Although the LA Times have not commented on the issue, Semafor reported that in a company-wide email LA Times Editor Kevin Merida reminded staffers of the ethics and fairness policy of the company.

It states that LA Times readers should not be able to discern the private opinions of staff or "infer that the organization is promoting any agenda".

Merida wrote: "Feeling heard and seen are essential to a healthy newsroom, as are civility and collective responsibility. Rigor, fairness, dissent, and difference can all co-exist as qualities that lead to the best journalism."

"But we must maintain the integrity of that journalism which is core to our reputation. Journalism itself is an agent for change. Having a compass to guide that work ensures that we don't imperil it, or inadvertently cause harm to our colleagues' ability to do their jobs."

According to Suhauna Hussain, staffers have been in discussions with LA Times management over the action, and 34 staffers have signed the letter and have been taken off the coverage.

The letter, titled 'We condemn Israel's killing of journalists in Gaza and urge integrity in Western media coverage of Israel's atrocities against Palestinians', was published on 9 November with an initial 600 signatures from journalists and former journalists.

Since its publication, a further 600 journalists have signed.

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The letter calls for an "end to violence against journalists In Gaza and a call on Western newsroom leaders to be clear-eyed in coverage of Israel's repeated atrocities against Palestinians".

As well as criticising Israel's killing of journalists and their families, and the targeting of press offices, the letter noted Western news publications' framing of the conflict which "positioned the attack as the starting point of the conflict without offering necessary historical context", whilst undermining "Palestinian, Arab and Muslim perspectives", in coverage.

The letter added that "this is our job: to hold power to account. Otherwise, we risk becoming accessories to genocide".

At the NYT Magazine Anne Boyer, the publication's poetry editor, released her resignation letter from the publication over its coverage of Israeli conduct in its war on Gaza.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and essayist stated her reason: "I can't write about poetry amidst the 'reasonable' tones of those who aim to acclimatize us to this unreasonable suffering. No more ghoulish euphemisms. No more verbally sanitized hellscapes no more warmongering lies."

"If this resignation leaves a hole in the news the size of poetry, then that is the true shape of the present."

Since 7 October, 42 journalists have been killed, including 37 Palestinian journalists killed in Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Four Israeli journalists died on 7 October after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 Israelis - mostly soldiers.

A Lebanese journalist lost his life in south Lebanon with preliminary investigation by Reporters without Borders linking the strike to the Israeli military.

Israel's siege, bombardment and ground operations in the Gaza Strip have killed 11,500 people - mostly women and children.