He brought the heartbreak of the Gaza war home to new viewers—and just when it seemed his dedication had cost him his position, those viewers brought him back to Gaza. It was a victory won on social media that could signal a shift in the way this conflict is covered by mainstream outlets.
Western media is not known for unbiased coverage of Palestine, to put it mildly; as comedian Jon Stewart quipped, “it’s the Mobius strip of issues: it only has one side.” In contrast, Ayman Mohyeldin’s reporting from Gaza for Al-Jazeera and now NBC has humanized the conflict with tweets like “4 Palestinian kids killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Minutes before they were killed by our hotel, I was kicking a ball with them #gaza”.
But just as mainstream outlets, also including CNN and the New York Times, began to focus on these losses, NBC appeared to get cold feet. The day after Mohyeldin witnessed the boys’ deaths on the beach, the network announced it was pulling him from Gaza for security reasons, and then that he would be replaced by Richard Engel. End of story?
“Hey! #LetAymanReport because we are sick of one-sided reporting,” one viewer wrote. “#LetAymanReport Or this PR disaster will become increasingly costly” chimed in another, with a third demanding: “Admit you goofed and correct error now!”
On July 18, NBC did at least the latter: “We will be sending Ayman back to Gaza over the weekend,” its statement read. While no reason was given for the about-face, leaving pundits to debate its causes, consensus was that popular outcry had influenced corporate decision-making. Viewers celebrated their win, with one declaring, “@AymanM IS GOING back to gaza…[it’s] a happy morning”.