Any Israel supporter has seen his or her share of phony reports about alleged Israeli crimes spread like wildfire through the Internet. Before anyone has the chance to correct the record, the public has already been irrevocably exposed to the false report.
Well, this week, it happened to CNN. Two weeks after the Israeli Walla news site (Hebrew) reported that CNN had downsized its Jerusalem bureau, the blogosphere suddenly erupted with suspicions that CNN had deliberately laid-off the Jewish Israeli staff, leaving only Arab employees.
According to the blog site where the story appeared to originate:
CNN has fired four Israeli Jewish journalists (out of a crew of 8), and has retained only Arab journalists. Where, until now, CNN always sent a Jewish and an Arab journalist to cover information, now there will be only an Arab journalist. The local chief editor of the News Chanel is now a non Jewish (when we first learned that the new bureau chief was not Jewish, we misconcluded that he was an Arab, but he is neither Jewish or Arab).
From here it was only a small step towards serious accusations of anti-Semitism. But since bloggers are not held to the same professional standards of fact checking as the mainstream media, we at HonestReporting felt ethically bound to dig deeper into the story.
From our own base in Jerusalem, we have seen for ourselves many foreign media outlets downsizing, mainly due to budgetary considerations but also as the Middle East story starts to move elsewhere. We contacted our own sources in the local media and CNN itself to get to the bottom of the story.
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A little fact-checking led us to the original downsizing story, published as far back as January 23. The Walla article raised legitimate concerns about potential consequences for balanced reporting in the CNN bureau but did not cross the line into accusations of anti-Semitism.
If CNN really had deliberately targeted Jewish employees based solely on their ethnicity, surely this would have been a scandal that would have made far bigger waves in the Israeli press at the time as well as beyond?