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DPWatchDog apologies to Hallinan

In order to maintain our credibility as the Daily Planet’s watchdog, it is important that we maintain the highest standards of journalism ourselves.  The fact that we regard the Daily Planet as malfeasant in so many ways does not give us license to descend to its level.

On March 26, 2009 The San Francisco Jewish Weekly, or “J” published an article about anti-Semitism as it relates to the Berkeley Daily Planet.  I felt that their article did not go deeply enough into the topic and responded with this letter:

Your article about anti-Semitism and the Berkeley Daily Planet barely scratched the surface of the problem.  The Daily Planet’s assertion that they publish anti-Semitic screeds simply because they publish all letters from locals is false.  For example, they only published about half of my pro-Israel letters, and I am local.  Consider:

The Daily Planet’s stated policy is to refuse to publish pro-Israel letters if they are from outside the area, but they publish anti-Israel letters from wherever they come.

The Daily Planet’s stated policy is that they will not publish letters if they are Islamophobic (I do not suggest that they should), but they routinely publish anti-Semitic letters.

The Daily Planet covers local anti-Israel gatherings, but refuses to cover local pro-Israel events.

When the East Bay Express ran a cover article finding anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley, the Daily Planet immediately ran its own frontpage article refuting this.

The Daily Planet’s foreign affairs analyst, Communist Party member, Conn Hallinan, devotes about 75% of his columns to anti-Israel commentary.

Executive Editor, Becky O’Malley, has written extensively against Israel.

There is much more to be found at the well researched website:

In turn, Conn Hallinan objected to the sentence regarding himself on two counts.  First, that he is not a member of the Communist Party, and second that far less than 75% of his columns in the Berkeley Daily Planet concern Israel.  On both counts, I was less than correct, but not as wrong as Hallinan would have.

First, Hallinan may no longer be a “card carrying” communist, but he appears to be a communist who no longer carries a card.  Hallinan was a very active member of the CP USA, and served as the editor of its news magazine, Peoples Weekly World.  Because the CP USA was closely aligned with the Soviet Union, when the Soviet empire collapse, the CP USA dissolved as a formal political party.  However, to this day, it continues to publish Peoples Weekly World, and Hallinan continues to write for it and for its sister Canadian Communist Party magazine.  Hallinan’s Russiophile instincts also seem to remain intact.  For example, he endorsed Russia’s invasion of Georgia and exonerated Russia in the polonium poisoning death of ex-Russian spy and Kremilin critic, Alexander Litvineko, in the face of overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity.  However, to say that he is a member of a political party that no longer exists is of course false.  We strongly believe that Hallinan has every right to be either a communist or a former communist.  We only believe that it is important for his readers to understand that it is this very peculiar, and now exceedingly rare, worldview that informs Hallinan’s writing, particularly because his writing style is so opaque that casual readers may not understand this.

Second, The “J” usually arrives in my mailbox on Saturdays, and I read it on Sundays.  Their letter deadline is Monday, and I had no pre-knowledge that there would be an article about alleged Berkeley Daily Planet anti-Semitism.   To meet the next day deadline, I rushed off the above missive with only access to my files at home.  There I had 19 of Hallinan’s columns, 14 of which concerned Israel.  I therefore calculated 14/19=74%.  But it was wrong of me to extrapolate from that limited data set.   The fallacy of my rushed thinking was that I should not have assumed that I had printed out a truly representative or random sample.  Obviously, I had printed out what interested me.  I here admit that for the moment I do not know definitively what percentage of Hallinan’s articles concern Israel.  One problem in counting is that Hallinan often covers multiple topics in a single article, and so he and I might count in different ways.   He may count only those which are only about Israel and nothing else, and hence arrive at a smaller number, and I might also count articles where Israel is a player, but not the only player.  In preparing this apology (which, by the way, is entirely self-initiated and not demanded by Hallinan or anyone else), I randomly chose the first half of 2007 and went through all of Hallinan’s columns.  There were 13 in all, of which 7 had references to Israel and 6 did not.  That’s 54% not 75%, and some of the references were relatively minor.  I will try to find the time to do a comprehensive survey of all of his columns. 

John Gertz, editor





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