26 April 2005

who should be the referee?
here's an interesting story about Daniel Okrent, ombudsman for the new york times.
a group called "if americans knew" met with him to complain that the nyt only reports on israeli children killed and ignores palestinian children who mostly die of "gunfire to the head."
here's an excerpt from what they wrote...

"Even before we had finished presenting our findings, Okrent interrupted to ask us why there was such distortion in Times coverage, what was causing the bias. He asked what we would suggest doing about it.
I replied that I wondered if there was a lack of diversity in the reporters and editors working on the issue. I pointed out that since this was a conflict between a state whose identity and purpose of existence was to be a Jewish state, it seemed to me that the number of Jewish-American reporters covering it should be balanced by approximately an equal number of Arab/Muslim-American reporters, or that there be reporters and editors working on it for example, Asian-American or African-American journalists without predisposition to partisanship toward either side.
Okrent said that it was impossible to find equal numbers of Arab/Muslim journalists of sufficiently high quality to balance out the number of Jewish reporters available to cover it, and ignored the suggestion that other groups be included in the reportorial/editorial pool. He said that there shouldn't be an ethnic litmus test? and that Jewish reporters shouldn't be excluded just because there weren?t enough Muslims for the Times to employ. I agreed with him that there should not be a litmus test, and then asked him if he thought only Jewish reporters could cover it.
No, he said, the problem, he felt, was that Times reporters only lived in Israel and didn?t live in the Palestinian territories. He then said that when he had suggested to reporters that they also live in the West Bank or Gaza, a person he trusted told him that this was too dangerous; they would be kidnapped. I then said that he needed to reconsider the reliability of this anonymous person, since I myself had traveled throughout Gaza and the West Bank as a freelance journalist."

i do think this is a major problem with lots of u.s. media companies. why give people the appearance of favoring one side by assigning jewish reporters to cover the conflict? no arab-american would EVER be given that job. it would never, ever, ever happen. a similar situation came up recently when condoleeza rice appointed former world bank prez james wolfensohn (who is jewish) to the post of chief negotiator between the israelis and palestinians.
the man is obviously very talented and smart, but didn't anybody stop and ask why we're appointed a jewish person to this post? how is much of the world going to trust our intentions?

When the nytimes can't see the what seems obvious, we are in trouble. That is a frightening story because of what it says about our news these days.
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