“In the chaos of war, the bar for truth and facts shouldn’t be lowered.”
Renée Graham of the Boston Globe wrote these words in an Oct. 17 column reacting to claims that Hamas had committed a particular atrocity as part of its Oct. 7 attack that left at least 1,400 Israeli citizens and soldiers dead, claims that quickly “unraveled.” Among those who have walked back or apologized for credulously passing along apparent propaganda are the Biden administration and a CNN reporter.
On Oct. 23, the New York Times issued an editors’ note about its coverage of a hospital bombing in Gaza and Hamas claims that Israel was the culprit. “Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified,” the paper wrote.
Many in Marblehead understandably have strong feelings about the war in Gaza and the decades of tension and tragedy that have preceded it. We have received letters to the editor reflecting those strong feelings and have worked hard to verify claims to make sure misinformation is not unknowingly passed along. We may not have met our own standards in every instance, but we continue to strive to.
To that end, we are taking a critical look at our letters policy. One consideration: limiting letters to topics that impact Marblehead directly and avoiding commentary on wider conflicts and issues.
How might such a policy have looked in practice, had it been in place the last two weeks? The Current still would have welcomed points of view, both pro and con, on an action taken locally: the issuance of a statement by the town’s acting superintendent. But letter writers would have been instructed to confine their commentary to that subject and not attempt to litigate the broader conflict between Israel and Palestine.
We are a small staff at a local news outlet, but we are also veteran, professional journalists who take our responsibilities seriously and we will continue to update our policies to reflect those standards. Thank you for your patience and support.