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Ask the Editor: Would WORLD quote Hitler if it was reporting on WWII?

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WORLD Radio - Ask the Editor: Would WORLD quote Hitler if it was reporting on WWII?

Explaining how WORLD handles information from Hamas on the war in Gaza


Israeli soldiers near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel Associated Press/Photo by Tsafrir Abayov

NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: Ask the Editor. WORLD Radio Executive Producer Paul Butler responds to a recent email about our coverage of the war in Gaza.

PAUL BUTLER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: During yesterday’s newscast Kent Covington filled us in on the latest about the freed hostages in Israel. Here’s how he ended the story:

KENT COVINGTON: But another family received some heartbreaking news. The youngest of the hostages, a 10-month-old baby… has reportedly been killed … alongside his 4-year-old brother and their mother. That’s according to a statement by Hamas.

That prompted listener Susan Brewster to write in:

Today on The World and Everything in It, Hamas was quoted. Big Mistake! They are murdering monsters! Would we quote Hitler during WWII??? You give them credibility!!!

Susan, you ask if we would have quoted Hitler during World War II. The short answer is mostly like yes, I think we would have. However, we wouldn’t just have parroted what he said. We would have looked at every Nazi press release with great skepticism. We would have worked hard to verify any claims by the fuhrer or his government. And that’s what we do with anything from the Hamas terrorist group communication arm as well.

The story we reported on yesterday came to light during the temporary cease-fire and the exchange of hostages for prisoners. The Bibas family had noticed that their loved ones weren’t included in the exchanges—even though it would have made sense for them to be, given the age of the boys. The family asked questions and that’s when Hamas issued its statement saying that they had been killed earlier in an Israeli air strike.

Notice that when we reported this story we did not mention that last detail from Hamas—about an Israeli airstrike. That’s because we don’t know for sure the circumstances around their deaths. We don’t even know for sure that they have been killed. Now they may have been killed by an Israeli airstrike, but if they were, Hamas terrorists are the ones responsible for them being in that situation. So that’s why we framed the story the way we did.

What we did know at the time is that the Bibas family received—in Kent’s words—“some heartbreaking news.” The two boys and their mother had reportedly been killed—which is what we said. Who reported their deaths? Hamas. So we credited the source of that information. In this instance, I don’t believe that it grants them any further credibility.

And here’s why: from the beginning our coverage we’ve made it clear that we don’t see this war between two parties with equal claims. I hope you’ve noticed how often we refer to Hamas as terrorists in our podcasts, our online articles, and in print. In most of our news stories, the first mention of Hamas includes “terrorist” in some way or other.

So we’re not afraid to quote Hamas sources. But when we do quote those sources we want you to know it. And know that we read those stories with great skepticism. Are they telling the truth? What are they leaving out? How are they distorting what happened for their purposes?

Proverbs 18:17 says: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” If we are doing our job well as journalists, we are that neighbor who comes and examines. We are all called to be skeptical.

And by the way, skepticism is not just for those sources we disagree with, it’s also for those we agree with. Now we ought never give in to cynicism, but we must be discerning and test what we’re told. The truth always passes through the fire of examination and comes out purified on the other side. So Susan, thanks so much for writing. I hope that helps. Thanks for writing.

That’s this month’s Ask the Editor. I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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