The public editor of The New York Times said she received hundreds of complaints last week after the Times used a large and sympathetic photograph of a distraught Palestinian mother to illustrate a story about her son’s stabbing to death of a sleeping Israeli soldier sitting next to him on a public bus.
I spoke on Monday afternoon to two senior editors at The Times. Both agreed that the photo was a regrettable choice. The dominant image with an article should reflect the overall point of the article and the reason for its newsworthiness.
“This did not represent the essence of the story, which was clearly the moment of the Israeli soldier being stabbed,” said Michele McNally, the assistant managing editor in charge of photography. She said a less-senior picture editor chose the photograph, along with one representing what she considered the other side of the story, which showed an Israeli police officer at the crime scene.
The selection of the Palestinian mother’s “art” with the article was an effort to achieve balance, but such an effort was not appropriate in this case, Ms. McNally said. In the print editions of the newspaper, the two photographs were published on an inside page with the offending photograph above the other. On the website and in other digital presentations, the Palestinian photograph was by far the more dominant image and remains so.