Whose Opinion Matters? Part 3: The Los Angeles Times

In explaining which op-eds it selects to publish, the LA Times says:

Our mandate, as we see it, is straightforward: to provide provocative, thoughtful commentary that is reasoned yet opinionated on a wide variety of subjects. The page itself has no ideological bent or political agenda; we want to provide the broadest possible range of opinions — from the left, from the right and, we hope, from authors whose politics are much harder to pigeonhole. Sometimes we get e-mails complaining that the pieces we’ve run are biased. To which we reply: Of course they are! Unlike the articles in our news pages (where reporters endeavor to be objective), our articles are opinion pieces; bias and a point of view are expected.

With the weight of the newspaper editorial team clearly coming down against Israel, one would expect different opinions from the op-eds that the LA Times chooses to publish. This was, however, not the case. The majority of outside contributors selected for publication shared the LA Times’ bias against Israel. Out of twenty-two op-eds in our study, fifteen (68%) were written with an anti-Israel bias. Obama’s real Israel problem — and it isn’t Bibi by Phyllis Bennis is a diatribe against Israel. A whole litany list of Israeli abuses is listed (with no criticism of the Palestinian Authority) — summed up by:

The problem isn’t Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud Party, or even Israel’s current extreme right-wing government. Israel’s fundamental policy toward the Palestinians is the problem, and that policy has hardly changed, despite the seemingly diverse sequence of left, right and center parties that have been in power.

Israel’s Failed Strategy by Daoud Kuttab raises the irrational notion that Israeli defensive measures to protect its citizens must be limited because only “several” civilians have been killed by rocket attacks:

It’s true that Gazan missile attacks have killed several Israeli civilians. But Israel’s recent military actions have been shockingly disproportionate, aimed at densely populated areas in which besieged Gazan civilians have no place to escape the overwhelming and exaggerated Israeli firepower.

He neglects to mention that the Israeli Army goes to extraordinary steps to try and avoid civilian casualties, despite the difficulties posed by the Palestinian strategy of firing from densely populated civilian areas. In Renew the Mideast peace process? Not now, Chuck Freilich writes that:

Israelis cynically refer to the repeated rounds of violence with the Arabs as “happiness,” as in “it’s happy today.” Before the cease-fire, as Hamas fired 1,000 rockets at Israel, it was indeed very “happy.”

It is nonsensical to suggest that anyone in Israel was “happy” about having thousands of rockets fired at civilians on an almost daily basis. Yet in making the point, Frielich creates a misleading image of Israel as trigger happy and preferring war to peace. Conclusion Is the LA Times even aware that both editorials and op-eds are heavily weighted against Israel? The issue of balance is addressed in “Op-Ed, Explained” which is a linked to the opinion page. Here is what it says (emphasis added):

People often want to know whether we seek balance on the page. The answer, as best I can give it, is this: We want a page that is politically balanced over time — not leaning too heavily to the left or the right — but we don’t monitor it day to day, or count Democrats versus Republicans. Similarly, we seek diversity of thought and diversity of contributors — we want provocative ideas from people of all races, genders, religions, etc. — but again, we don’t try to balance the number of women to men on every single page.

So while the LA Times claims that it hopes for balance over time, this is not something it watches day to day. But when a year’s worth of opinion pieces all lean the same way, something is wrong. Our conclusion from surveying a year’s worth of opinion pieces from the Los Angeles Times shows that the same anti-Israel bias that infects its hard news coverage is also reflected on its editorial pages.

You can contact the LA Times by clicking here.

This is the third segment in our series analyzing the opinion pages of major media. Read the previous studies: Whose Opinion Matters — A Look at the New York Times Whose Opinion Matters? Part 2: The Washington Post

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