Tablet has an essay about the media manipulations in reporting the Israel/Gaza conflict.
It is by Â Matti Friedman who isÂ aÂ former AP correspondent who explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters. What she writes echoes what I saw in Israel.
The lasting importance of this summerâs war, I believe, doesnât lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourseânamely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.
While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibilityâin this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that professionâmy professionâhere in Israel.
She looks at the disproportionate staffing and reporting on Israel compared with other countries.
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the âArab Springâ eventually erupted.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The APâs editors believed, that is, that Syriaâs importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I donât mean to pick on the APâthe agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 livesâthat is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of Americaâs safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 womenÂ murdered in Pakistan last yearÂ (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoingÂ erasure of TibetÂ by the Chinese Communist Party, theÂ carnage in CongoÂ (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or theÂ Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012:Â 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners ofÂ IndiaÂ orÂ Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
That is an indictment in itself right there. That is a massive news imbalance. Â Â Read more »