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Viewer Spotlight: Here's how we're covering the Israel-Hamas war

Viewers called the Scripps News Viewer Hotline this week to weigh in on our coverage of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Viewer Spotlight: Here's how we're covering the Israel-Hamas war
Posted at 11:13 AM, Oct 20, 2023

Scripps News has heard from thousands of viewers since launching our toll-free hotline in the spring.  While we can't personally respond to each and every one of you, we do listen to every call, and this is our opportunity each week to address some of your thoughts about our coverage.

This week, you had a lot of thoughts about our reporting on the war Israel recently declared on Hamas. Two weeks ago, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that killed 1,400 Israelis, many of whom were civilians.

Hamas and other affiliated groups took some 200 people hostage — including 31 Americans. That prompted a retaliatory response from Israel that has since killed more than 3,000 Palestinians.

SEE MORE: New footage and documents give insight into Hamas attack

Rudine from Maryland said: "I am so disheartened and sad because you promised to be fair and impartial with your news, however, you’ve taken a strong stance for the Israelis and not equally so for the Palestinians."

Meanwhile, an anonymous caller said: "It is so crystal clear that this network that I’m watching is very pro-Palestinian — and it makes me sick."

Two opposing reactions to our coverage. Our promise to you is always to provide balanced, impartial coverage. And in a story as intertwined in identity and history as this one, we recognize the sensitivity of our decisions and the extra burden of responsibility on our part. We put a lot of research and debate into questions like this one:

"Just curious why you keep referring to Hamas as a terrorist group," another anonymous caller asked. "I get that they've been labeled that way for a long time, but I don't get why they are considered terrorists and not a resistance."

SEE MORE: Israel at war: Reporting from the front lines

We use both "terrorist" and "militant" to describe Hamas, which is a Palestinian political party known for its historically violent opposition to Israel. We considered several factors.

The U.S. government has classified Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997. Terrorism involves the deliberate use of violence against civilians to further a political goal.

However, shorthand labels — which can be necessary in the limited space we have for text in banners on your TV screen — often have an unavoidable air of oversimplification. That's why we emphasize context and more precise descriptions and detail in our actual reporting.

We update you on things like death toll numbers, make it clear when we can't independently verify information, and put experienced, independent eyes on the ground.

SEE MORE: Inside a social media war room fighting for the hostages held by Hamas

Our war correspondent Jason Bellini — who has been covering the war in Ukraine — recently redeployed to Israel alongside veteran international correspondent and Scripps News deputy managing editor Linda Patillo as producer. We put our own trusted eyes and ears on the ground to independently witness and help make sense of the often dueling narratives we get from the Middle East.

We hope that you see transparency and an earnest effort on our part to get it right in the fog of war. Our approach is not one that all news organizations follow, and we want to continue to hear what you think on this difficult story or any others.

Let us know how we’re doing — good or bad — anytime on our toll-free Scripps News Viewer Hotline at 1-833-4-SCRIPPS to lend your voice to the conversation.

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