Jewish Policy Center Senior Director Urges Caution With Wartime Reporting

Shoshana Bryen, a senior director at the Jewish Policy Center and editor of the center’s inFOCUS Quarterly publication, is calling for journalists to exercise greater caution and scrutiny during wartime, as information can be difficult to independently verify.

“Journalists have a tendency now—and I once went to journalism school, so I know this—to go with faster is better and correct things later. And that is a very bad idea,” Ms. Bryen told NTD News’ “Capitol Report” on Friday.

Ms. Bryen shared her concerns about the journalistic standards for verification and accuracy in light of how media outlets reported that the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was rocked by an explosion on Tuesday.

The blast near the hospital came as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been carrying out airstrikes on Gaza and various Palestinian factions like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have fired rockets throughout southern Israel. The fighting there comes after Hamas gunmen breached the Israel-Gaza barrier and proceeded to kill hundreds of people and take around 200 hostages on Oct. 7.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that at least 500 people were killed in the Gaza hospital blast, which they attributed to an  IDF airstrike. The IDF denied responsibility for the hospital strike and instead pointed the blame at a failed rocket launch attempt by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

During his visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Joe Biden shared the U.S. assessment that Israel was not directly responsible for the Gaza hospital strike.

Several Western news organizations initially led their coverage of the hospital strike with the claims by the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel military officials have, in turn, faulted media outlets for being too credulous of the Gaza Health Ministry and Hamas during their initial reporting on the hospital strike.

“It would have been very helpful for the media, to say, there’s been a bombing, something happened, we need to get more information, we need to get reliable information, and we’ll come back to you with that,” Ms. Bryen said of the coverage of the hospital strike. “They didn’t do it, they went straight to ‘Israel killed 500 people in a hospital.'”

Ms. Bryen argued that how media outlets initially cover an incident is important because audiences are not always aware when those same outlets issue corrections, and often will continue believing the initial coverage. She’s concerned that this latest dispute over the facts in Gaza hospital strike will also turn public perception against Israel’s military campaign.

“What you’ve seen is a variety of people who’ve said, well, Israel blows up hospitals in Gaza, and they killed 500 people, and so we can’t support Israel.’ You get a tremendous blowback from that,” she said. “. . .Whatever comes out first is the thing that has the most credibility.”

Beyond urging the media to be careful in verifying its reporting, Ms. Bryen also urged people to wait and be more skeptical of the claims and reporting they are seeing about the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

“It’s one thing to say people shouldn’t take everything at face value. People should wait. People should think about these things. But it’s very hard not to, if you really believe that 500 Gaza civilians were killed in a hospital. Any person with a heart is going to be upset by that,” she said.

Some members of the international community are still calling for a more detailed independent investigation of the al-Ahli hospital strike. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted. “It is important that this incident is investigated very carefully.” When asked about the hospital strike during a press event on Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We are working closely with allies to determine exactly what happened.”

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