Changing the wire services, one story at a time

Yesterday, after reading several days’ worth of AP and Reuters articles incorrectly identifying Judaism’s holiest site as the Westen Wall, I sent an email to each of the services. Here’s the one the AP received:

Dear editor,

The AP is incorrectly identifying the Western Wall as “Judaism’s holiest site.” In this particular wire story, as in the many before it, you write:

Jews venerate the compound as the site of their biblical temples, and one of its outer walls known as the Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall is what remains of the retaining wall around the Temple complex.

In another article, you wrote:

The bridge has been used by Jewish women going to pray at the Western Wall, which is Judaism’s holiest site.

In fact, the ramp leads to the Temple Mount, not to the women’s section of the wall. That’s two errors in one sentence.

And one last thing: By repeatedly ignoring or minimizing the importance of the Temple Mount, (which is Judaism’s holiest site) while emphasizing–generally in the lede of your article–that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is “Islam’s third-holiest shrine,” you do seem to be slanting your articles toward the Muslim identity of the site, and away from its far-longer history (3,500 years) as a Jewish holy site.

I expect you’ll be correcting the errors in your upcoming pieces.

Today’s AP boilerplate in the Temple Mount story:

The Old City hilltop compound has been a catalyst for earlier rounds of Israel-Palestinian fighting. It houses the third holiest site for Muslims, who believe it is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

The compound is Judaism’s holiest site, venerated as the location of two biblical temples, and Jews gather to pray near one of its outer retaining walls, known as the Western Wall.

I’m counting that one as a win for accuracy. With thanks to Lynn and Rahel, who pointed out that not only does the ramp not lead to the Women’s section, but that the Mount is, uh, above the Wall. Reuters made that mistake as well.

Dear editor,

Your articles identifying the Western Wall in Jerusalem as “Judaism’s holiest site” are incorrect. Judaism’s holiest site is the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is the remnant of the retaining wall around the site.

You make the error here:

The Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques sit above the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in an area referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the al-Haram al-Sherif.


The Aqsa Mosque and another mosque called the Dome of the Rock sit above the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, on land referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the al-Haram al-Sherif.


The Aqsa mosque and another mosque called the Dome of the Rock sit above the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

And here:

Israeli authorities are involved in a few excavation projects near al-Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque where the biblical Jewish Temples once stood. The Western Wall — Judaism’s holiest site — overlooks the shrine in the Israeli-annexed old city of Jerusalem.

That last goes back to January 29th.

You need to correct your boilerplate. The Temple Mount, on which stood the Holy of Holies, is Judaism’s most holy site.

Today’s Reuters boilerplate:

Jews revere the compound, overlooking Judaism’s Western Wall, as Temple Mount, where two destroyed biblical temples once stood.

It’s a half-win. That’s in the sixth paragraph, which, we all know, is usually cut in the three-to-five-paragraph World section of most newspapers. In the third paragraph, Reuters makes absolutely no mention that Al-Aqsa is in the Temple Mount complex, and they still downplay the Jewish connection and maximize the Islamic influence:

Israel’s archaeological authority is searching for ancient artifacts some 50 meters (yards) from Haram al-Sharif, a compound in Arab East Jerusalem that houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque.

But—and this is important—the error that was being fed to more than 90% of all English-language newspapers and other media outlets has been fixed. Both services no longer report the Wall as “Judaism’s holiest site.” They now correctly identify it as the Temple Mount.

We don’t worship a wall, people. It’s a no-brainer.

All in all, I call it a good day’s work, and thank Lynn and Rahel for pointing out the other two errors—since fixed—in the Reuters and AP stories.

Now if only we could get them to stop the bias.

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5 Responses to Changing the wire services, one story at a time

  1. Oceanguy says:

    Thank you!!! I wish there was a way to stop the “third-holiest-site” crap. BTW, what’s the fourth holiest? the Mosque in Cordova? In Istanbul? Or is it some other church conquered by Medieval marauding Moslems?

  2. Paul M says:

    Oceanguy, bite your tongue. The BBC has found a new formulation that does away with the “third-holiest-site crap”:

    “Controversial construction work near the holiest site for Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem is to be put off to allow public consultations, officials say.”

    That’s from the first para of this story:

    Just when you thought they’d struck bottom….

  3. Joel Keller says:

    The al-Haram al-Sharif is Islam’s “third holiest site”…since 1967 when Israel was attacked by Jordan in the Six Day War and was able to regain access to the Temple Mount. Before 1967, Muslims didn’t give a crap about the site.

  4. abc123 says:

    Scenario 1.
    I break into your house and steal your toaster is it mine? No. you stole a toaster.

    Scenario 2.
    I break into your house and steal your toaster, praise allah. Is it mine? I seems the answer depends on who you al-asq.

  5. Well done Meryl, As you know Semantics ARE everything.
    If more of us corrected these ‘mistakes’ the West would have a clearer idea of how important the Temple Mount is to us,
    ..and the carriage of these ‘mistakes’ would be far more apparent.

    The Islamic lobby, press and their supporters are so quickly creating ‘new facts’ on the ground, the History and importance of Israel and the Temple Mount and old original Jewish areas and settlements in the Middle East are being buried.

    Shalom Aaron
    Visit: Bagelblogger

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