January 13, 2000
Getting It Very Wrong
How and why the L.A. Times failed in its report on Holocaust deniers
In its article on "Danger in Denying the Holocaust?", did the Los Angeles Times exercise the traditional journalistic canon of presenting both sides of a contentious issue, or did the paper fall into the trap of giving obvious falsehood equal space with the truth?
To survivors and experts on the Holocaust, there is little doubt that the Times and reporter Kim Murphy gave credence to the lies of the deniers in the name of journalistic impartiality.
"It is a sign of immaturity, and inexperience on the reporter's part, to try and balance everything, because there are some things that can't be balanced," says Arthur Stern, a veteran of Bergen-Belsen and a Jewish Federation lay leader.
"I fear that at some point in the future, everything reported about the Nazi regime will be gray, and nothing will any longer be black and white," he adds.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, faults the Times' report on the same basis, and also charges that the article suffered from a glaring omission.
"The reporter left out the most crucial element, namely the confessions of the war criminals themselves," says Cooper. "The Nazis left an extensive paper trail and there are any number of quotes and statements by Himmler, Goebbels and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess, clearly documenting the extent of the Holocaust."