Oct 18, 2023 - Economy

Dozens of Alden-owned newspapers run editorial urging media to call Hamas a terrorist group

Illustration of a megaphone made of newspaper

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

More than five dozen daily newspapers owned by investment firm Alden Global Capital ran an editorial on Wednesday urging the news media to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization and its Oct. 7 attack on Israel as a terrorist attack.

Why it matters: Some newsrooms that are avoiding the term argue it's become too politicized. Others say the term accurately describes the group and the attack or that avoiding it normalizes Hamas' actions.

Details: The editorials are running across all 65 of the daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group and Tribune Publishing, two local news companies that are both owned by Alden Global Capital.

  • Some editorials began publishing online Tuesday. Others were published in print Wednesday.
  • The decision to run the editorial was made by MediaNews Group and Tribune Enterprises leadership, not the editorial boards of each individual newspaper. A source confirmed that company ownership was involved in the decision.

What they're saying: "We ran the editorial in all MediaNews Group and Tribune Enterprises daily newspapers because our commitment to accuracy in reporting is universal. The Hamas attack on Israel was terrorism and those who carried it out are terrorists," per a statement provided to Axios on behalf of both MediaNews Group and Tribune Enterprises.

Between the lines: The editorial argues the "there should be no debate over the language we use to describe Hamas and its depraved Oct. 7 attack" on Israel.

  • "Hamas is a terrorist organization, and the acts of its agents on Oct. 7, when they crossed the border into Israel with the express intent of killing and kidnapping civilians, were terrorism. That makes them terrorists," the editorial reads.
  • "While some have suggested Hamas' political role in Gaza means it is not a terrorist organization, it is clearly targeting civilians for political ends, which is the very definition of terrorism," it continues.
  • "The danger in using euphemisms such as 'militants' to describe terrorists is that it normalizes heinous acts of terrorism and implies that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a military act and that Hamas at large has some other, less despicable objective."

The other side: Some newsrooms are opting to avoid the term, arguing it's used too broadly and the debate around its use has become too heated.

  • AP's style guide on the Israel-Hamas war, for example, states that because the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" have become politicized, and often are applied inconsistently "detailing what happened is more precise and better serves audiences."
  • The news service, which licenses its content to many newsrooms globally, said it isn't using those terms for specific actions or groups, "other than in direct quotations or when attributed to authorities or others."
  • Asked when the AP began to implement its policy around use of the words "terrorist" and "terrorism," a spokesperson said it's been the company's general policy since the 1990s, but that the outlet has made some exceptions in the past, including after 9/11.

Of note: The U.S. government and other nations have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. But some newsrooms, particularly those outside of the U.S. or those with global audiences, argue that such a distinction is a point of view that should be acknowledged, but not covered as fact.

  • BBC News' world affairs editor John Simpson, for example, said in a post last week that terrorism "is a loaded word," and that "it's simply not the BBC's job to tell people who to support and who to condemn — who are the good guys and who are the bad guys."
  • "We regularly point out that the British and other governments have condemned Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but that's their business. We also run interviews with guests and quote contributors who describe Hamas as terrorists," he added.

The big picture: Major U.S. media institutions have historically sided with Israel during times of geo-political tension in the Middle East.

  • But the war with Hamas is forcing newsrooms to reconcile with a new political reality, in which a growing number of Americans say they are sympathetic to Palestine over Israel, according to Gallup.

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