Monday, October 31, 2005

Correct a Times Mistake: 'You Can't Possibly Be Serious'

A reader of the New York Times is continuing his fascinating correspondence with Times deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner and Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Erlanger. Previous installments of his correspondence were posted here and here.

In today's adventures, we have Bronner's and Erlanger's responses concerning Erlanger's error-filled puff piece on the old lady who runs a Jerusalem correspondent hangout. (The errors having been pointed out originally by the always readable, mucho dependable IRIS blog.)

Our man began by pointing out that Erlanger, a fan of Yassir Arafat, had made a serious boo-boo about the West Bank security barrier. The article referred to " a large concrete wall through most of Jerusalem." Wrong. As the article linked above pointed out, the barrier goes around Jerusalem, not through it, and is mainly chain-link fence -- a serious error.

He also pointed out that the article was wrong in saying that Palestinians didn't get gas masks during the first Gulf War.

Bronner's response: "There is indeed a tall concrete wall through large parts of Jerusalem." Silence, you will note, on the gas-masks error.

Again. Wrong. Here's a map from the pro-Palestinian group B'tselem that proves it. Much as the Times may hate that barrier -- hey, much better to let in those suicide bombers-- it is factually incorrect to say that the barrier runs through Jerusalem. It doesn't.

It's a mistake. Requires a correction. Our reader tried to reason with Bronner:

"that's, of course, different from "through Jerusalem", and the differen e is probably correction worthy," he responded.

Bronner's response... you know, I think this one deserves to be quoted, headers and all:

From: Ethan Bronner (
Subject: Re: I Was Going to Leave You Alone
Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 14:12:21 -0500

you can't possibly be serious.
Our man, however, was not blown off easily. As you can guess, he is an attorney. I would have lost my temper by now. He remained calm and responded as follows:

"Well, first off, the language is unclear. Does the "concrete wall" refer to the entire barrier, or just the part going through Jerusalem. But that's a minor point.

"But it looks to me that the wall, concrete, wire fence, or what have you, largely tracks the Jerusalem municipal border (the Yellow line in the pdf I am attaching), which would make the wall not "through Jerusalem", am I wrong? Happy to be."

He then included a link to the map linked above.

Bronner shot back today with this delectable sophistry. Note that he now admits his mistake--but still obviously isn't going to fess up to it in print:

concrete barrier refers to the part through jerusalem. and while most of that wall does indeed follow the municipal boundary, some of it -- especially sections around shuafat and kafr aqab -- do not. from the point of view of palestinians living in those areas, the barrier feels very much like it is going through their city. we at the times are the ones who invented the term "barrier" for the mix of fence and wall and barbed wire and guard posts so we are very conscious of the need for precision in describing it.

Wow. Take a moment to absorb the above. Since the Palestinians "feel" that the barrier goes through Jerusalem, even though it doesn't the Times will inaccurately reflect those "feelings" in its articles! Wow. Wow.

Note the last few words too. Yeah, "precision." Precision at what? Getting things wrong?

Our man also got a response from the error-prone Arafat fan himself, asserting that "there are no factual errors in the story, thank you." You're welcome. But really, Stevie, isn't anything just the slightest bit wrong in your piece? The "Palestinians not getting gas masks" stuff. The "barrier running through Jerusalem" stuff. Your editor acknowledged it's a mistake. Oh my.

Stevie just can't get that right. Stevie said in another email that "for someone to say that the barrier through jerusalem is a 'chain link fence' has never been here, or is not paying attention."

Again, note the erroneous reference to "through Jerusalem," repudiated by Bronner. Somebody isn't "paying attention," that's for sure!

Erlanger ended his most recent email, today, with this kiss-off: "i'm a little busy just now, trying to write somehting else that will no doubt annoy someone else...."

At last, Erlanger tells the truth!

Well, at least Bronner, after first clinging to his man's lies, finally succumbed and very very reluctantly admitted that his guy goofed on a very sensitive issue. (Still silent on that other error, the gas-masks thing.) The Times needs to correct its errors. Will it? And as a correction, not as a "for the record" copout? Stay tuned.

I understand that Times uberbureaucrat William Borders is being contacted to correct these really egregious errors. Ditto for the Empty Suit, aka "public editor," Barney Calame.

I'm sure the latter is figuring out right now just the right way to fulfill his role as management shill and parody of a newspaper ombudsman. Will he simply ignore the issue entirely? Will he focus on "process"? Will he overlook the rigid adherence to error and find "there is no evidence of bias." We shall see.....

UPDATE: Note the map, derived from somewhere in Moonbatland, posted by the diligent folks at IRIS here. As you can see from the various sites posted on IRIS, basically what Erlanger was doing was parrotting anti-Israel swill, which contends that the "wall is snaking through Jerusalem" when it is really on the outskirts thereof.

This underlines two things:
1. Erlanger's and Bronner's ignorance. One guy is Jerusalem bureau chief, the other is deputy foreign editor, and neither is aware of something as simple as the boundaries of Jerusalem.
2. The ease with which these two hacks have been manipulated by anti-Israel propaganda.

Apparently others have contacted the Empty Suit. Too bad. I hear he got a nice heating pad to make the divan extra-comfy.

UPDATE #2: The Times's editorial fumbling is more than matched by its mismanagement as a business.

UPDATE #3: More on Erlanger's sloppy, biased reporting in Timeswatch.