NYT Buries Lead on Operation Protective Edge
Burying the lead is a basic journalistic no-no. News articles are supposed to lead with the mostest. News of the greatest significance should not be hidden – buried -- much, much later in the story.
But that’s not apparently de rigueur at the New York Times. Witness a July 8 article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about Israel preparing for a major offensive against Gaza terrorists. (“Calling Up More Troops, Israel Girds for an Escalation in Gaza Violence” page A4)
In a mushy lead paragraph, Kershner tells readers that Israel and Hamas “seemed set on a collision course,” that there has been an escalation of cross-border clashes, that Hamas vows to avenge the deaths of six of its “fighters,” and that Israeli warplanes are attacking dozens of targets in the Palestinian coastal territory.”
Well, fine. Tensions are on the rise and there are signs of escalation. But exactly where was the tipping point for Israel to proceed with larger measures? The lead is not enlightening on this crucial point.
The second paragraph is similarly unhelpful. We’re told that Israel is completing deployment of two infantry brigades along the border with Gaza and that the government has approved the callup of 1,500 reservists.
The third paragraph reports an IDF announcement of the start of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza against Hamas “in order to stop the terror Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis.” But what exactly creates such terror? Kershner remains mum.
In the fourth paragraph, we learn that pre-dawn Israeli airstrikes hit at least 30 targets in Gaza, including homes of suspected “militants.” (My observation: New York Times reporters are forbidden from calling them terrorists) But we’re still in the dark about why Israel would go on a counteroffensive at this moment. What exactly has changed? Why now?
The fifth paragraph is equally useless. It reports a call by Hamas for a mass demonstration.
The sixth paragraph, in lengthy prose, conjectures that all these “developments” were apt to undermine a recent reconciliation pact between Hamas and the “more moderate” Palestinian Authority. (My observation: no mention that the “moderate” PA under Abbas conducts a relentless anti-Semitic incitement campaign that teaches Palestinian kids to aspire to become “martyrs".)
In the seventh paragraph, Hamas blames an Israeli airstrike for killing five of its “fighters” and reporting that another “militant” had been killed in a separate attack.
The eighth paragraph has the Israeli military explaining that the killing of the Palestinian “fighters” may have been due to the fact that they had entered a tunnel, possibly to use for an attack on Israeli forces, and that the tunnel exploded and collapsed on them.
All of some interest. But we’re still waiting for an answer to the crucial question of why exactly Operation Protective Edge got under way now.
The ninth paragraph, however, continues on a tangent that Hamas’ losses were the heaviest in months.
The 10th paragraph has two more Gaza “militants” bite the dust in an Israeli airstrike, the 11th has the Gaza Health Ministry reporting that 15 people, including five children, were wounded in Israeli airstrikes.
Finally -- yes finally and very belatedly -- we get the real scoop all the way down in Paragraph No. 12 -- “About 80 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on Monday,” Kershner writes. “One reached deep into Israeli territory, crashing into open ground near Beersheba, about 25 miles from the border with Gaza.”
Yes, it’s the rockets, stupid.
So there you have it. Kershner buried the lead in the 12th paragraph, where rockets appear for the first time. It’s the sharply escalating rocket barrages that proved the tipping point toward greater counterterrorism measures and Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. But Kershner, with her pro-Palestinian agenda, shies from blaming Palestinian terrorist groups, from Hamas on down, for all the misery hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians have had to endure from these persistent and increasing rocket attacks.
Our lead – she buried the lead.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers