Catching the Guardian Off-GuardFebruary 23, 2001 12:00 by ManagingTeam
Earlier this week, HonestReporting sent you a communique about the British Guardian’s unfair, biased reporting. You and many others were obviously enraged, because the Guardian was swamped with thousands of emails from HonestReporting members.
The Guardian didn’t know what hit them.
The Guardian immediately dispatched opinion page editor David Leigh to find out who was behind this email onslaught. Leigh phoned HonestReporting representatives in New York, London, and Jerusalem — and on Thursday, February 22, the Guardian published an editorial column about HonestReporting entitled “Media Manipulators.”
The HonestReporting campaign is effective! Your efforts do make a difference!
But … did the Guardian answer our charges of media bias? No. In a further display of bias, The Guardian ignored the message and attacked the messenger — calling our HonestReporting emails “bizarre … inconvenient … scary.”
Below is the text of a counter-point editorial that we have submitted to the Guardian for publication.
You should NOT forward this email to the Guardian. We want to give them one fair chance to publish our response. If they refuse, we will have to take them to task for violating journalistic ethics and evading responsibility for what they’ve written.
If you do feel compelled to write the Guardian (firstname.lastname@example.org), the best tactic for now is to simply say “thank you for paying attention to our emails,” and express your confidence that in the future they will take the appropriate action to correct their pattern of bias.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
To the Editor of the Guardian:
On behalf of 12,000 members of HonestReporting, we want to thank the Guardian for taking note of the wave of emails that were sent this week protesting our observation of anti-Israel bias in your publication.
However, we were disappointed, too. Rather than answer our charges of media bias, the Guardian ignored the message and attacked the messenger — calling the HonestReporting emails ” bizarre… inconvenient… scary,” and referring to some HonestReporting members as “extremists.”
I beg to differ. HonestReporting was founded by a group of concerned individuals that affiliates neither to the right nor to the left. We are students and professionals from all walks of life — joined in our desire to see that Israel receives the fair media coverage that every nation deserves.
In the case of the Guardian, we specifically objected to your characterization of the Palestinian who recently killed 8 Israelis by ramming into a bus stop. Rather than present him as a mass murderer or terrorist, the Guardian defended the bus driver, calling him “a sort of Palestinian everyman” who was merely drowsy from medication. This is even after the bus driver admitted to Israeli General Security Service investigators that the attack was intentional and premeditated!
We believe this is a violation of media objectivity; hence the wave of emails sent this week to the Guardian.
When I spoke with the Guardian’s David Leigh on the telephone, he said that the HonestReporting email campaign constituted “harassment.” I explained that if this had been a mass-mail software program or a hacker device, then the Guardian would have a legitimate point. But HonestReporting is individuals who are sending individual emails, using their own sense of logic and fairness to determine whether or not a publication is biased. We specifically encourage people to read the article themselves, and then if they feel the article is biased, to compose their own letter of complaint.
In our conversation, Mr Leigh also objected on the grounds that we are involving people from all around the world, and that the Guardian is a local UK paper. While I appreciate such humility, the Guardian is in fact readily available to the entire world through its fine web site — which does include an email address inviting reader feedback.
Mr Leigh further objected to the fact that HonestReporting members had sent emails directly to the Middle East correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg, claiming that the volume of email hindered her from doing her job. On the contrary, it seems to me that by alerting her to the opinion of her readers, we are helping Ms Goldenberg do her job better. Isn’t the free flow of opinions a foundation of journalistic accountability?
So now we’re back to square one. Because through all this, the Guardian has yet to address the basic allegation of anti-Israel bias. Why is the Guardian evading responsibility for what they’ve written?
Instead, you have criticized the HonestReporting emails as “tending to crowd out genuine expressions of opinions from our readers.” Since these people have read the Guardian and found it offensive, what suddenly makes their opinions not “genuine?”
Free speech works both ways. As an organization comprised of thousands of intelligent individuals, we have a right to criticize the media. So why does the Guardian cast unfounded aspersions against us? Ironically, this in itself constitutes a lack of journalistic objectivity.
Evidence of the Guardian’s anti-Israel stance is provided by one of the Guardian’s own columnists, Paul Foot, who wrote in “Conjuring Up War Criminals” on Feb. 20: “Anti-Arab, pro-Israel prejudice in the US is as powerful as ever, but in Britain, I would say, it is on the wane. This is thanks at least partly to strong and indignant journalism, including the commentaries from David Hirst and the recent reports from the occupied territories by the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg.”
In the interest of fairness, I am confident that you will print this letter. And in the meantime, we continue to await a response from the Guardian on the basic allegation of anti-Israel bias. That, after all, is the real issue.
On behalf of 12,000 concerned individuals,
Sharon Tzur, Director
Media Watch International / HonestReporting.