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Monday, May 20
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion letters

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: How the IDS reports on the Israel-Hamas war

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In the past month, the Indiana Daily Student has reported extensively on the campus responses and community reactions to the horrific escalation of violence in the Israel-Hamas war. Since Hamas attacked Israel Oct. 7, the IDS has published articles on pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian gatherings, IU President Pamela Whitten’s statement on the violence, debates on campus and other news and opinion pieces on the subject – all of which have been met with criticisms and questions from readers. 

We care deeply about our readers’ valuable feedback on how we cover the community, and we want to continue hearing from you. How we cover the war is an ongoing discussion; please be assured that we hear your perspectives and include them in our conversations. 

We understand the Israel-Hamas war has caused irreparable harm and grief to members of the IU and Bloomington community. The IDS unequivocally condemns antisemitism and Islamophobia in all forms.

We have read every message, considering and discussing them at length. Some of them have called into question the IDS’ ethics and journalistic practices. These are serious criticisms the IDS does not take lightly. 

Over the past few weeks, editors have extensively reviewed each criticized piece and have determined they are consistent with the IDS’ journalistic ethics and high standards. We stand by our reporting and are confident in our reporters’ ability to cover this issue fairly and accurately. 

In the interest of being as transparent as possible with our readers, I would like to explain our reporting process and address concerns regarding our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. 

The criticisms the IDS has received fall under three main themes:

  • Some readers disagree with the language the IDS uses to describe the violence.

  • Some readers claim the IDS’ news and opinion pieces include objective factual inaccuracies and unreliable attribution.

  • Some readers perceive an imbalance in the IDS’ opinion columns regarding the war.

One recurring criticism centers on word choice in the IDS’ news articles, such as demands we refer to Hamas as “terrorists” rather than a “militant organization.” Like most reputable news organizations, our policy is to defer to Associated Press guidelines, the standard for American journalism. AP style states, “The terms terrorism and terrorist have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently. Because they can be used to label such a wide range of actions and events, and because the debate around them is so intense, detailing what happened is more precise and better serves audiences.”

In accordance with AP guidelines, the IDS does not designate specific groups as “terrorists” or acts as “terrorism,” other than in direct quotes or with attribution. Instead, the IDS reports the facts of the specific atrocities and shares the views of experts and authorities. 

The first principle of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is to seek the truth and report it. “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information,” the guidelines read. 

To ensure we live up to that ideal, all content the IDS publishes – including news articles, opinion columns, photos and captions – goes through a rigorous editing and fact-checking process. Given the sensitive and intractable nature of the war, we have taken extreme care to report these stories with the utmost integrity and compassion. Multiple editors spend hours editing each story, agonizing over every word — by the time we publish any content regarding the Israel-Hamas war, at least 5 editors have read it.  We deliberately choose to delay publication by hours or days to make thoughtful decisions about our coverage and prioritize complete accuracy and fairness. 

As journalists, we have an ethical responsibility to balance the public’s need for information and the potential harm our coverage could cause. While some news organizations have chosen not to cover this issue, the IDS believes these stories need to be told, and we will continue to do so while minimizing harm. There is no easy answer when journalistic guidelines come into conflict – we must rely on using editorial judgment and all due diligence.

We are acutely aware that reporting on the Israel-Hamas war is inherently polarizing, and the IDS has received criticism from each side. Some readers have demanded we publish one-sided coverage that discredits or excludes other perspectives. While we read and consider each of these messages, the IDS is committed to giving a voice to perspectives from all sides without amplifying inflammatory or extreme rhetoric. 

The IDS is a learning lab, and we sometimes make mistakes. When we determine a correction or clarification is needed, we promptly correct any errors and include a note explaining what was changed in the story. Like all newsrooms reporting on the war, we are learning as we go. We will continue to examine our procedures regarding our coverage as our understanding of the complex situation develops. Your feedback is essential in this process. 

Finally, some critics claimed the IDS is only publishing columns advocating for one perspective on the war and refusing guest column submissions from others, resulting in a perceived imbalance in our opinion pieces. 

The opinions the IDS publishes – denoted by the word “OPINION” or “COLUMN” at the beginning of the headline – are not reflective of the IDS’ stance as an institution, but rather they represent the opinions of a singular staff member. We always welcome guest column submissions and letters to the editor, and we encourage multiple perspectives on any issue, especially those as complex and sensitive as the Israel-Hamas war. We have published multiple perspectives regarding this issue and continue to welcome additional opinions. However, guest columns and letters to the editor must adhere to the same high standards as all of our content.

Every piece of content we publish is subject to our robust editing and verification process. All opinion pieces must provide evidence for claims from reputable sources, and the IDS reserves the right to reject a column based on a lack of facts. We may also reject submissions believed to be in bad faith, intentionally harmful or damaging or otherwise outside of our guidelines. We want the IDS’ opinion section to be a forum that reflects a diverse array of voices, but we can’t sacrifice our standards or the truth in an effort to appear balanced. 

***

In the last month, many staff members, including myself, have been harassed, intimidated and threatened simply for doing our job as journalists. We have received threats to our physical safety, spiteful social media comments, calls for the IDS to be censored, and a deluge of other messages too hateful for us to print. Hostility and vitriol of this severity from IU students, faculty and alumni is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances. 

I hesitated to share this with you, our readers, because I do not want the IDS to become the focus of the story. But what I have seen the staff go through this month they should never have to experience. 

My commitment – and the IDS’ commitment – to serving the public is unwavering. We will not succumb to the pressure or let intimidation deter us from our pursuit of truth and service to our community. 

But my top priority is the safety and wellbeing of the staff, and it is important that you know what we are experiencing. 

The IDS is an independent, student-run organization with a staff of around 200 IU students and five full-time professionals who are IU employees. The university does not exercise any control or have any decision-making power over editorial content. All final decisions about what content the IDS publishes come down to the editor-in-chief.

We dedicate hours everyday working at the IDS on top of being full-time IU students because we care about the IU and Bloomington community. This kind of harassment from faculty and students at our own university and the lack of support from administrators has made our jobs infinitely more difficult – and that in turn has an impact on you, the people we serve. 

We stand by our reporting and our devotion to pursuing truth with tenacity and care, even if it causes criticism. While we wanted to explain our experience, we want to recenter the narrative back onto how the community has been affected by the war. 

The IDS will continue to be transparent with you on our reporting processes, and we want to continue hearing from you. If you would like to voice any concerns or questions, please email me at editor@idsnews.com.

As always, thank you for reading.

Salomé Cloteaux

Editor-in-chief

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