UPDATE – MAY 30:
Following correspondence with Lizzie Dearden, this article has been amended. We accept that Dearden did, in fact, interview Michal Rotem of NCF via email and we also accept that she in no way copied her story from the +972 Magazine site. A photo of Lizzie Dearden taken from her Twitter site has also been removed at her request. Unlike many of the media outlets that it deals with, HonestReporting is fully prepared to acknowledge and correct any errors if they have been made and we apologize to Lizzie Dearden for those errors.
Dearden did, however, state that she respects the viewpoint that her article was not balanced and should have included more response from the Israeli authorities. HonestReporting therefore stands by the amended article below.
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Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create “news” content. It fills a basic need for editors: cheap content supposedly researched and fact-checked. Just add water.
Within the complex situation of coverage of Israel, where fact checking is crucial and both sides need to be heard to maintain balance, churnalism is particularly unprofessional. Unfortunately, this has not prevented The Independent from producing a shocking piece of propaganda masquerading as a news story.
A closer look at a piece “Israeli authorities ‘try to evict dead people’ from Arab village” supposedly about Israeli authorities allegedly issuing eviction orders to dead people to clear an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev, reveals critical flaws:
The location of the journalist
The story is credited to Lizzie Dearden. On her Twitter feed she describes herself as an “online journalist.” This means that she gathers her news from the internet and not from the actual location of the story. A look at her previous articles for The Independent shows reports on stories from Paris, London and South East Asia all within a one day time frame. Put simply, she is not reporting from the Negev region of Israel.
The source of the story
Having established that Lizzie Dearden was not in Israel, where then did she get this story from? The entire package is supplied by the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF), a non-governmental organization whose political advocacy is profiled by NGO Monitor:
- Active in delegitimizing Israel internationally, and one of the most active NGOs in lobbying European governments to oppose Israel’s Bedouin-Negev policies.
- Submits appeals to the United Nations calling for “world intervention to aid the Bedouin community” and identifying Israel as a “discriminate country” that denies many rights by “forced politicization” and “policy of displacement.
More lack of credible sources
Dearden’s story includes an embedded YouTube video produced and uploaded by the Alternative Information Center, another radical anti-Israel organization. According to NGO Monitor the AIC accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid-like discrimination,” of being a “settler colonialist… intransigent, racist and militarized… regime,” and implementing a “multi-tiered system of oppression.” The AIC also promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Furthermore, the only other “news outlet” that has run this particular story is Russia Today a few days prior to The Independent’s piece. RT, the Kremlin’s state-funded propaganda channel is not a credible media outlet and regularly parrots anti-Israel extremists. A case in point is a tweet embedded in the RT story on the Bedouin by notorious anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal.
A lazy excuse for journalism
Ultimately it appears that Lizzie Dearden, while trawling the internet for interesting stories, has chosen to rely on blatantly one-sided sources. She has simply repackaged a story promoted by an anti-Israel NGO without carrying out any due diligence of verification and fact-checking.
In the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is simply inexcusable. This is not a story involving fluffy clouds or cuddly animals. It is part of a highly politicized and multifaceted situation that deserves proper journalistic attention and not the superficial treatment of churnalism.
The end product is a piece of anti-Israel propaganda parroted by a newspaper, The Independent, too lazy or unwilling to allocate the resources for producing proper and professional journalism.
Lizzie Dearden may wish to stick to reproducing less controversial or one-sided stories in the future if she wishes to be considered a journalist rather than a churnalist.
You can register your complaint to The Independent through its online complaints form.
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting, www.freestock.ca