On Monday morning, The New York Times issued an extraordinary note, acknowledging that its early coverage of the deadly blast at a Gaza hospital Oct. 17 “left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.”

The acknowledgment was labeled an “editor’s note,” not a correction, and explained why the initial report led with Hamas’ claims that Israel was responsible and that there had been hundreds of casualties. The earliest reporting “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not be verified,” the note said, adding that within two hours, the Times’ coverage had been adjusted to reflect “the dispute over responsibility.”

Within hours, the critics were crowing. James Golden, known as Rush Limbaugh’s producer Bo Snerdley, announced “Hell freezes over: NYT issues apology for ‘incorrect’ reporting on Gaza hospital attack.” Others called the note “groveling,” a “non-apology apology” and “too little, too late.”

Nic Carter called coverage of the blast “one of the biggest journalistic failures in living memory.”

It wasn’t just the Times that erred, Yascha Mounk explained in The Atlantic. News organizations across the world, including the BBC, framed their coverage around the unverified — and, as it turned out, false — information offered by unidentified “Palestinian officials.”

Neither the BBC nor the Times, Mounk wrote, noted in their breaking-news alerts “that the health authorities — and all other authorities — in Gaza are controlled by Hamas, the Islamist organization that had brutally killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, in a recent surprise attack on Israel.”

The coverage, of course, had the effect of throwing gasoline on a fire. Per The Atlantic, “The king of Jordan canceled a planned meeting with President Joe Biden. Mass protests broke out in cities across the Middle East, some culminating in attacks on foreign embassies. In Germany, two unknown assailants threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Berlin. A wider regional war seemed to inch closer.”

Here in the U.S., the claim that Israel bombed a hospital was repeated by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and Palestianian American, even as Glenn Beck and other conservatives were questioning the narrative the day after the blast.

“Maybe. Just maybe. Maybe we don’t just take Hamas’ word for what happened,” Stu Burguiere said to Beck in their exchange on “The Glenn Beck Show.”

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The fog of war is real, as is the fog of war coverage; both have gotten more dense in the age of social media. Elon Musk said earlier this month that he almost never reads “legacy media” and questioned the value of later reading about something that had been on his social media platform days earlier.

Young adults are already with him. Pew Research Center reported last year that Americans under the age of 30 are as likely to trust news from social media as what comes from national news outlets. Even more troubling was the Gallup/Knight Foundation report that found half of Americans believe that news organizations deliberately mislead them. The events of the past week did nothing to change that.

But in fact, what happened with the Gaza hospital answers Musk’s question: “What’s the point?” It can take days for the truth to emerge, and we need multiple viewpoints to dissipate the fog — something most casual users of X don’t get with their self-curated stream of perspectives. Moreover, Musk undercuts his own argument of X as the only viable news source by saying the platform needs to charge users in order “to combat vast armies of bots.”

You can support both the legacy media and Musk’s call for citizen journalism; they are not mutually exclusive. And the sharp-tongued media watchdogs in our midst are useful even if they’re partisan, so long as they’re truthful.

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More truth — and humility — is needed for American media to regain the trust they’ve lost over decades of coverage that often prized narratives of the left over those on the right.

But critics of legacy media also need to put down their brickbats and acknowledge that most journalists are committed to lofty principles even when we make grave mistakes. The us-versus-them narrative serves no one, and the emergence of partisan media disguised as neutral — so called “pink slime” media — was a response that re-created the problem.

The coverage of the explosion at the hospital is a sobering reminder that skepticism in the absence of facts is essential, whether we are a purveyor of news or a consumer. As the old journalism mantra goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

And if Hamas says Israel bombed a hospital, check that out, too.

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