NY Times Boss Defends Israel-Gaza Coverage: We’ll ‘Never Win Over The Partisans’

Reuters Institute
Reuters Institute

The publisher of The New York Times on Monday responded to critics of the paper’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, saying the Times couldn't possibly cover the violence “without making all sides angry.”

While delivering the annual Reuters Memorial Lecture at Oxford University on Monday, A.G. Sulzberger used the theme of journalistic independence to address criticism the paper has received on multiple issues, including its stories on the war in Ukraine and its coverage of trans issues. But he spent most of his opining on the Times’ coverage of Gaza, citing multiple stories to argue the paper has devoted equal effort covering Israeli and Palestinian perspectives—and that it is impossible to satisfy critics from either side.

“Those on each side of the conflict will find stories they like and dislike,” Sulzberger said. “But independent reporting—the kind that doesn’t fully align with any one perspective—will never win over the partisans.”

Sulzberger’s comments came as the paper has come under intense fire in recent weeks, particularly for its story on Hamas’ alleged use of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks. One of the three reporters on the story, Israeli freelancer Anat Schwartz, is under investigation over liking a series of X posts that urged Israel to attack Gaza. The NewsGuild accused the Times last week of targeting Middle East and North African employees in a leak investigation over an Intercept report about a nixed episode of The Daily podcast based on that sexual-violence story. (The Times has denied targeting staffers over their ethnic background.)

The publisher said the Times’ critics have attacked every facet of the paper’s reporting from its selection of photos to its choice of sources to rely upon. Sulzberger claimed the criticism has come equally from both sides of the conflict: One U.S. senator accused the paper of providing “material support” to Hamas, he said, while hundreds of pro-Palestinian protestors rallied outside the Times’ New York office to decry its alleged pro-Israel bias.

“It’s telling that even as both sides use inflammatory rhetoric to steer public opinion, they’re quick to reference our journalism when it aligns with their narratives,” Sulzberger said. “During the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, both Israel’s accusers and defenders cited our coverage.”

The publisher also claimed that the paper has reporters from a wide swath of backgrounds working on its conflict coverage, including both Muslim and Jewish people.

New York Times ‘Reviewing’ Reporter Who Liked Gaza ‘Slaughterhouse’ Tweet

“Critics see this diversity as fodder for pushback,” he said. “Does a journalist’s background reveal a hidden bias? What about the words and background of the journalist’s spouse, or father, or children? Indeed, I’ve felt this myself—both sides have long put forward theories about why my family’s leadership of the Times stokes unfairness, either because our Jewish roots make us naturally biased in favor of Israel or because they lead us to bend too far the other way.”

Sulzberger further suggested that he doesn’t believe a solution to the conflict—or for how to best cover it—was necessarily a down-the-middle approach.

“I don’t believe a news organization must be doing something right because people on all sides are angry,” he said. “But it’s also not a sign that a news organization must be doing something wrong. Indeed, it would be impossible to produce fair, accurate coverage of this particular conflict without making all sides angry.”

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