Dutch newspaper reprimanded for sloppy reporting on controversial Anne Frank book
The Council for Journalism reprimanded NRC for its first reporting on the controversial book The Betrayal of Anne Frank. According to the Council, the newspaper acted carelessly by keeping “insufficient distance” from the book’s conclusion.
Two relatives of the Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh submitted a complaint to the Council. The book points to him as the probable person who betrayed the Frank family, who were hiding in Amsterdam during the Second World War. However, according to experts, there is little evidence to prove that. The Dutch publisher, therefore, decided to withdraw the book from the market.
Before the book was published in January, NRC and several other media were already allowed to view it under strict conditions. For example, they could not consult independent experts before the embargo expired. The relevant press was subsequently criticized for overstating the book’s findings.
The Council for Journalism agrees with this. “Given the undeniably high sensitivity of the issue, NRC should have reported more cautiously, for example, by adopting a more critical approach to the investigation,” the Council ruled on Friday. “By failing to do this and reporting on the case as it has done, NRC acted journalistically carelessly. The fact that follow-up publications have critically reflected on their own presentation of the news and have reported more nuanced about the issue does not detract from this.”
Editor-in-chief Rene Moerland said in the newspaper that he is sensitive “to the conclusion of the Council that NRC kept too little distance in certain parts of our first article about this book. That distance was important to us and must be clear in every respect. That has not been sufficiently assessed here, both in some terms and in presentation.”
The online version of the challenged NRC article now includes a summary of the Council’s ruling. NRC will also summarize the verdict in Wednesday’s paper newspaper, as recommended by the Council.
According to NRC, Van den Bergh’s relatives hope that other media that were the first to write about the book will also take note of the verdict.
Reporting by ANP