Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hartford Courant Refuses to Correct Errors and Even Refuses to Publish Letter About Them

We have previously blogged about an error-filled commentary, Amid Repression, Provocations Of Palestinians, It's Business As Usual by Bessy Reyna published March 21 in The Hartford Courant: Crossing the Line: Journalistic Irresponsibility at The Hartford Courant and Hartford Courant Again Publishes and Refuses to Correct Blatant Errors.

The latter included an email from The Courant's Op-Ed Editor Peter Pach concluding "We would welcome a letter from you in response to Ms. Reyna's piece that offers your perspective on the issues she raises," albeit with the qualification that it had to keep within 200 words even though a concise listing of just some of Reyna's factual errors would take far more than 200 words.

I took Mr. Pach up on his "invitation," even giving The Courant a choice of two different letters, but he apparently wasn't very sincere: The Courant has made it clear it will not publish letters about the blatant factual errors in Reyna's screed unless they pretend facts are merely opinions.

In a conference call with no fewer than three Courant Editors (Editorial Page Editor Carolyn Lumsden, Op-Ed Editor Peter Pach and Letters Editor Lewis Bresee), The Courant's editors used Orwellian logic to insist there were no errors in Reyna's piece and they would not publish a letter that stated there were.

One can almost understand The Courant's editors can hear incorrect terminology, such as "East Jerusalem," so many times they start to believe it's not incorrect. As PRIMER quotes Joseph Goebbels, "A huge lie repeated often enough is accepted as truth.

However, The Courant editors went beyond the absurd in defending Reyna's falsely describing the planned addition of homes within the existing neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo as being a "new settlement." He even referred to Ramat Shlomo itself as a "new settlement," although Ramat Shlomo was built back in 1996 and, with about 20,000 residents, hardly conjures up images of a "settlement."

Of course, The Courant editors are entitled to their own biases and misconceptions. What is of concern to those who believe newspapers serve a vital role in a democracy is the same editors who repeatedly publish hateful, error-filled articles by Bessy Reyna not only refuse to publish their own corrections but refuse to publish critical letters unless they're rewritten as to lose all meaning.

In this particular case, they even rejected the suggestion of the writer that they include their own Editor's Note expressing their opinion about the content of the letter.

One last note before the texts of the rejected letters: Reyna's columns contained many other factual errors in addition to the those contained in the one phrase discussed in the letter. Some of those were mentioned in an earlier correspondence with The Courant, but given the attitude of the editors it seemed pointless to again point them out over the telephone.

The rejected letters:

Dear Editor:

It's disturbing that the Hartford Courant on March 21 not only published yet another error-filled commentary by Bessy Reyna but has refused to issue corrections for any of those errors, even though such corrections are called for by both the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Statement of Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

It's further disturbing that the Courant refused to allow sufficient space for a letter to adequately explain the errors, restricting such a letter to its standard 200 word limit, woefully insufficient for even a concise listing of all the errors.

Consider one, typically error-filled phrase in Reyna's commentary: "… the announcement of Israel's plan to build a new settlement of 1,600 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem."

There is no place named "East Jerusalem" and the constructions will be in northern, not even eastern, Jerusalem.

It won't be a new "settlement." Israel hasn't even built any new "settlements" since the start of the Oslo Process in 1993.

A more substantial explanation of this phrase and myriad other errors, of fact and omission, misrepresentations and distortions is unfortunately not available through The Courant but may be found at .


Alan Stein
President, PRIMER-Connecticut

The following is an alternate if you don't want to publish the greatly preferred letter above.

Dear Editor:

The commentary by Bessy Reyna published by The Hartford Courant on March 21 contained numerous factual errors, errors of omission, distortions and misrepresentations.

Because of The Courant's strict 200 word limit on letters, I only have space to incompletely analyze one phrase, but a more substantial analysis my be viewed on the PRIMER website at .

Reyna misleadingly refers to: " … the announcement of Israel's plan to build a new settlement of 1,600 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem."

For one thing, there is no place named "East Jerusalem." The construction won't even be in eastern Jerusalem. It will be in northern Jerusalem, in an area that might reasonably be called northwestern Jerusalem, being directly north of the heart of the area meant when people refer to west Jerusalem.

It's also false to refer to the plans as being for a new "settlement." The plans are simply for additional apartments in the long established neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which already contains about 20,000 residents. Indeed, Israel hasn't built any new "settlements" since the start of the failed Oslo Process, way back in 1993.

It's unfortunate The Courant published such a misleading commentary, filled with so many errors, distortions and misrepresentations.


Alan Stein
President, PRIMER-Connecticut

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