Welcome to Semafor Media, where we, too, are just trying to learn the virtue of patience.
I’ve never been more relieved to be late on a story than on the explosion at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, where our small breaking news team took a long pause before publishing even a carefully-hedged attempt to describe what happened and what Hamas and the Israeli government had said about it.
The great Financial Times data journalist John Burn-Murdoch wrote last week that the main cause of mainstream media’s errors, from Gaza to COVID-19, “is a failure to keep pace with modern news gathering techniques.” I always appreciate a British journalist’s confidence that he’s solved Middle East peace, of course. But he’s right that there’s a growing specialty in figuring out the facts of war from painstaking analysis of photographs and video.
But as I write, few of those analysts are claiming to be absolutely sure what happened in Gaza five days ago. Most seem to have reached the consensus that it wasn’t the result of a direct Israeli strike, and many think it could have been a stray rocket fired from Gaza, but few are sure.
What’s left is a demand for patience. While reporters and analysts compare photographic evidence, heads of state make decisions and protesters protest.
One of the hardest questions for journalists (and everyone else) right now is what to do in the meantime — how to cope with real uncertainty around facts while hoping, as most people do, that a particular version of the story is true.
Also in today’s newsletter: Max and I have spent a couple of weeks reporting on internal conflicts at a nonprofit called Global Press, which attracted big-name funders with a compelling mission of replacing “parachute” foreign correspondents with local women — and with inflated claims about its reach. Marty Baron is sparring with his old publication, a former Cuomo aide is re-fighting the coverage of his fall, and we’ve got one good text with Axios’s Barak Ravid. (Scoop count: 5)
Semafor’s Flagship newsletter was built for moments like this: When you need a quick, sophisticated orientation in a confusing world and a chaotic media space. Sign up here.