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Monday, March 01, 2004


----- Original Message -----
From: Daniel Okrent [Public Editor at the New York Times]
To: "Anne Lieberman"
Sent: Monday, March 01, 2004 4:30 PM
Subject: your message

Dear Ms. Lieberman,

I'm sorry for the delay in this response. The normal press of work; the transition between the old foreign editor and the new one (and an exchange of deputies as well); and the complex nature of your charges all conspired against a speedy reply.

I also have to acknowledge that your comment after the initial delay did not induce me to want to respond quickly. You wrote, "It's been almost a month, and I've heard nothing. I didn't really expect to, but let's go through the motions anyway, shall we?" It did not seem like the beginning of a fruitful conversation.

Do I disagree with your charges? Not necessarily -- although your expectation of seeing the names of every one of the Israelis killed seems neither realistic nor fair; I know of no American newspaper that would do this. But neither do I accept your other charges, as cherry-picking a single article does not, to me, make a trend. Somehow, the tone of your letter makes me feel you will find this unacceptable.

Nonetheless, I've put your comments in a file for the piece I will eventually write about the accusations of anti-Israeli bias. And when I write it, I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt that you ask me to give you, despite your clear belief in your rectitude.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Okrent
Public Editor

* * *

Dear Mr. Okrent,

Wait til you come across the next email I sent. It was the day after yet another suicide bombing, and the Times thought it appropriate to run Noam Chomsky's anti-Israel screed as an op-ed. In that email, I said you needn't pursue my earlier concerns, because the Times is simply "rotten to the core." I am ready to concede that there is nothing I can do to obtain the interest of anyone at the Times in the issue of bias against Israel (not since Serge Schmemann went to work for the IHT, anyway) and that there are no fruitful conversations to be had.

Just for the record, your expectation that those frustrated with the bias of the Times will be able, or even should, hide that frustration from you, will not easily be met. Many of us who complain about this have been doing so for a long time, with little response, and that seldom "fruitful." We do not do this for a job, we do this in spite of jobs and other commitments; we do this out of love -- mostly for Israel and the Jewish people, but a bit for the Times as well. I used to believe it was a publication of high integrity, and I truly miss it. I miss being able to trust it.

For the record, I never said I expected the Times to publish the names of Israeli victims of terror, though I wouldn't consider that unreasonable. I was simply juxtaposing the fact that you don't mention their names, with the attention you do decide to give to suicide bombers or other terrorists. The Times has on more than one occasion published articles that told not only the name of a suicide bomber, but their age, where they were from, what organization they were affiliated with, how many children they had, what they did for a living, and what their family had to say about their death. Is your answer that this does not constitute bias? Or is it that suicide bombers get more attention because they become news only one at a time, whereas their victims become so in scores, too unwieldy to mention? I just want to know WHY.

As for "cherry-picking a single article," I find this comment very amusing: When I complain about a trend, I am told that I must be more specific. When I am more specific, I am told a single article does not make a trend. If I didn't know better, I would think you are trying to get rid of me.

I don't care if you can't appreciate my "tone" - I am angry, and with good reason. I thought it was your job to deal with people who charge that the Times is biased in its reporting of the news. Beyond disparaging its "complex nature," you did not respond to my complaint. As for my "clear belief in [my] rectitude," do you have a problem with that? If I weren't certain of the validity of my claim, why would I write to you?

Anne Lieberman