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An If Americans Knew Report Card

Study: AP Covers Vastly Fewer
Palestinian Than Israeli Deaths

If Americans Knew

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A new study reveals that Associated Press Newswire coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict significantly distorts reality, essentially over-reporting the number of Israelis killed in the conflict and underreporting the number of Palestinians killed.

Significant findings of the one-year statistical study include:

  • AP reported many Israeli deaths in multiple articles, but failed to cover a third of Palestinian deaths
  • AP reported on Israeli children’s deaths more often than the deaths occurred, but omitted any coverage at all of 85 percent of Palestinian children killed.

The study compared the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the conflict during 2004 with the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths reported in the headlines and lead paragraphs of AP articles.

The results showed that AP covered Israeli deaths at twice the rate of Palestinian deaths. In the subset of children’s deaths—arguably, even more newsworthy events—AP covered Israeli children's deaths at a rate 7.5 times higher than Palestinian children&rsqup;s deaths.

This distortion is likely to extend to the 1,700 U.S. newspapers that use AP, many of which may rely entirely on AP for coverage of the region, not having their own reporters there.

Entitled “Deadly Distortion,” the study was conducted by If Americans Knew (www.IfAmericansKnew.org), a nonprofit organization specializing in media analysis that has conducted similar studies of the network news channels, The New York Times, and other papers.

What percentage of the Israelis and Palestinians killed made it into AP reports?

AP reported 131 percent of the Israeli deaths in 2004**. The percentage is over 100 because AP reported some of the deaths in more than one article. It covered 66 percent—two-thirds—of Palestinian deaths.

As for the children, AP reported on 113 percent of the Israeli children who died, compared to just 15 percent of the Palestinian children who died.

What about hard numbers? How many people died and how many did AP cover?

In 2004, 108 Israelis, eight of them children, and 821 Palestinians, 179 of them children, were killed in the conflict. These are conservative figures of confirmed deaths (see FAQ, below).

AP reported Israeli deaths 141 times, meaning that if it covered all of the Israeli deaths at least once, it reported the same death in more than one article 33 times. AP reported on Israeli children’s deaths nine times—that is, it reported at least one of them in two separate articles. (See “note on methodology” in the FAQ, for more on this.)

AP reported Palestinian deaths 543 times—meaning it never reported on at least 278 Palestinian deaths. It reported on Palestinian children’s deaths 27 times, meaning it omitted any coverage at all of at least 152 Palestinian children killed.

Quick facts:

Israeli deaths reported: 141

Palestinian deaths reported: 543

Israeli deaths actual: 108

Palestinian deaths actual: 821

% of Israeli deaths reported: 131%

% of Palestinian deaths reported: 66%

Ratio of Israeli percentage to Palestinian percentage, all ages: 2.0 to one

Israeli children's deaths reported: 9

Palestinian children's deaths reported: 27

Israeli children's deaths actual: 8

Palestinian children's deaths actual: 179

% of Israeli children's deaths reported: 113%

% of Palestinian children's deaths reported: 15%

Ratio of Israeli percentage to Palestinian percentage, children: 7.5 to one

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the study get its numbers of actual deaths?

From the widely respected Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem (btselem.org)—the same source used by the BBC, among others. B'Tselem carefully confirms every death.

Why does the study compare just the headlines and lead paragraphs?

The study was aimed at assessing the average reader's experience and the prominence given to the coverage. (In addition, past studies indicate that the patterns found in headline- and lead paragraph-coverage tend to hold true when the entire article is examined.)

Did AP report more of the Israeli deaths because they were civilians?

In its reports on the deaths, AP described a similar percentage of the Israelis and Palestinians killed as some sort of armed combatant (e.g., soldier, militant, gunman, etc.)—less than a third in both cases.

How did the Israelis and Palestinians included in this study die?

The study includes only Israelis and Palestinians in Israel-Palestine who died as the direct result of actions by the other population. We do not include people killed in other parts of the Middle East.

Can I check the numbers? What if I have more questions?

Copies of the study, along with the full details of the analysis, are available online and by request. If Americans Knew Executive Director Alison Weir is also available for interviews. Please call or email the contact listed above.

Note on methodology:

By comparing statistics on the number of Israelis and Palestinians who died with a count of the number of reports of Israeli and Palestinian deaths in AP headlines and lead paragraphs, the study can tell the rate at which AP covered the deaths—and, thus, how well AP’s coverage overall represented the statistical reality of how many people died.

However, the study could not correlate in a scientifically sound way the exact identities of the people whose deaths were reported by AP with the exact identities of the people included in the statistics of deaths. Therefore, the study does not provide information on whether, for example, AP reported on each Israeli death at least once and reported 33 deaths twice or (as an extreme example), reported one death in 100 articles and then reported 41 other deaths one time each.

Comments on the significance of the study:

“Our findings are especially disturbing,” points out Executive Director Alison Weir, “Since it is so important that American taxpayers, who are providing $8 million to $15 million per day to Israel, be accurately informed on this issue.”

Weir says she worries that editors who use the AP newswire in good faith are unaware that AP’s coverage does not represent the reality of the conflict. “Unintentionally, editors around the country are reporting this issue with a distortion that most would oppose, if they were aware that they were doing it.”

Where can I see daily reports directly from the Palestinian Territories and Israel?

There are a number of agencies providing these. In the West Bank two are The International Middle East Media Center and PMG Daily Reports and in Israel two are Haaretz and B'Tselem.

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Media Report Cards

Deadly Distortion: Associated Press
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: ABC, CBS, & NBC
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

Off the Charts: New York Times
Sep. 2000 - Sep. 2001
Jan. 2004 - Dec. 2004

SF Chronicle (CA) Report Card
Sep. 2000 - Mar. 2001

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Oct. 2002 - Mar. 2003

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Report Card
Apr. - Sep. 2002

New London Day (CT) Report Card
Mar. - Jun. 2003

Featured Links in This Section

"Israeli army begins deploying in Jerusalem against attacks" – Deconstructing AP bias

Letting AP in on the Secret:
Israeli Strip Searches

AP Reveals Israeli Censorship,
Says It Will Abide By Rules

Mondoweiss, Chapter One
Blogging about Israel and Jewish identity raises Observer hackles

BBC's coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict 'misleading'

Nonviolent Palestinian Resistance

The Coverage—and Non-Coverage— of Israel-Palestine

Israel Pays Students For Pro-Israeli Social Media Propaganda

New York Times Distortion:
Up Close and Personal

Epiphany in Beit Jala

Censored: Israel and Palestine

Resources

Times Warp: What The New York Times doesn't tell you about Palestine and Israel

Short Movie: AP Erased Footage of Palestinian Boy Being Shot – Watch Online!

AUPHR Report – Accuracy in Oregonian Coverage of the Palestine / Israel Conflict

FAIR Report – The Illusion of Balance

Book – Bad News from Israel

Leaked Document: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003

Related Organizations

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Committee to Protect Journalists

Reporters Without Borders

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