Media Activists Make a Big Impact

In recent weeks, media ombudsmen have reported on your effective responses and complaints.

The Los Angeles Times’ David Shaw writes: “Major Jewish organizations and other supporters of Israel in this country have increasingly bombarded newspapers in recent weeks with charges of biased reporting on hostilities in the Mideast.”

The Washington Post’s Michael Getler writes: “A number of people — some on their own and others as part of write-in campaigns — challenge what they view as a fairly consistent anti-Israel bias.”

Getler attended a conference of newspaper ombudsmen last week and found similar challenges at “The Post, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Portland Oregonian and the Sacramento Bee. From the San Francisco Chronicle to Boston’s Christian Science Monitor, editors have reported increasingly vocal challenges to their reporting, not to mention National Public Radio…”

Read Shaw’s article at:
http://articles.latimes.com/2002/apr/28/news/mn-40500

Following are 4 specific examples of media activists making an impact:

===== (1) S.F. CHRONICLE’S BOLD HEADLINE =====

When HonestReporting member Moshe M. spotted a biased headline in the San Francisco Chronicle’s account of the terror attack on Adora that killed 5-year-old Danielle Shefi and 3 others, he wrote a scathing letter of complaint.

He received the following response from Dick Rogers, the Chronicle Readers’ Representative (ReaderRep@sfchronicle.com):

“We’ve had a lot of response to the headline on our Sunday story about the attack on Jewish settlers (“Bold attack on Israelis – 4 dead”). I agree it was a poor choice of words. While bold can be neutral, suggesting audacious or brazen behavior, it also can mean courageous and daring — a positive connotation and hardly the meaning we wanted to convey. Considering the sensitivity of the Mideast situation and the sensitivity of our readers to our coverage, it would have been far better to find an unambiguous word or to avoid characterizing the attack. The facts speak for themselves…

“The paper’s role is to be as fair and neutral as possible. My judgment is that the many editors and reporters in the newsroom try to achieve that goal, but Sunday’s headline didn’t measure up.”

See the original Chronicle article at:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/

===== (2) FAKE FUNERAL ON ALAN KEYES =====

Last week, the IDF filmed a Palestinian walking over to stretcher, lying down, being wrapped in a shroud, and being carried by a group of Palestinians in a “funeral procession.” But then the “dead body” falls off the stretcher, gets up on his own, and climbs back on the stretcher. And when the “corpse” is dropped a second time, it stomps off angrily — apparently finding its own funeral dangerous to its health!

When HonestReporting member Esther K. heard about the “fake Palestinian funeral,” she immediately contacted MSNBC’s Alan Keyes show. (“Alan Keyes is Making Sense” airs weeknights on MSNBC from 10-11 pm ET.) She spoke to the executive producer, worked to obtain a copy of the videotape, and after 3 hours of phone calls, she saw the fruits of her efforts: Keyes wove the “fake funeral” footage into the beginning of his show, using it to illustrate “the issue of Palestinian credibility in the wake of increasing indications that the claims of hundreds of dead and Nazi-style atrocities and other things were heavy exaggerated, abused for propaganda purposes to achieve a political result.”

Esther even received a letter of thanks from Alan Keyes’ executive producer. Now what will she do for an encore??

Comments to:
alankeyes@msnbc.com

By the way, a group called “LAW-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights & the Environment” tried to explain the fake funeral as follows: “A Palestinian producer was shooting a film at the same site. What was perceived as a staged ‘burial’ was actually acting for a film.”

When that excuse didn’t fly, LAW came up with another idea: “What the footage actually shows is a group of children playing ‘funeral’ near the cemetery in Jenin. It is not uncommon in the occupied Palestinian territories to witness Palestinian children playing a game where they pretend they have been killed. It is part of a phenomenon raising fears among child experts and that a generation in the Palestinian territories has suffered serious psychological damage from Israeli violence directed against the Palestinian civilian population.”

Whew — those Palestinian human rights groups sure are creative! Or as the Wall Street Journal said: Hooray for Ramallywood!

===== (3) ROCKY MOUNTAIN BYE =====

Holger Jensen has been a thorn in the side of Israel for more than 30 years, reporting for Newsweek and Associated Press from Moscow, Vietnam and Beirut. For the past 11 years, as international editor of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, Jensen has consistently taken potshots at Israel. Last month, Jensen recently was forced to apologize after publishing excerpts of what he falsely claimed was an interview with Ariel Sharon.

But now Jensen’s name has completely disappeared from the Rocky Mountain News website. It was almost like one of those Soviet-era encyclopedias where politicians who fall out of favor just cease to exist.

In explanation, John Temple, publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, wrote to HonestReporting:

“Holger resigned to pursue other opportunities. His columns are still available through our archive, however we don’t maintain current web sites for writers who are no longer with the paper.”

“Pursue other interests”? I guess all those complaints finally made a difference.

See HonestReporting reports on Jensen at:
http://honestreporting.com/critiques/2001/22_denver.asp
http://honestreporting.com/critiques/2002/19_encyclopedia.asp

You can express your joy at:
letters@RockyMountainNews.com

===== (4) THE TIMES & THE PARADE =====

The Salute to Israel parade in Manhattan on Sunday drew 700-800,000 people, including marching bands and professionally designed floats (http://www.salutetoisrael.org). About 600 protesters also showed up — representing about .0008 of total attendance.

Yet The New York Times ran a front-page photo of an anti-Israel poster held by one of the protesters, suggesting to readers that there had been a huge ANTI-Israel parade! The ensuring article devotes mo
re ink to the protesters than it does to the pro-Israel paraders themselves.

The volume of complaints was apparently massive, because Tuesday’s New York Times carries the following “editor’s note” (scroll to bottom):
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/07/pageoneplus/corrections.html

“An article yesterday about a parade in Manhattan marking Israel’s 54th anniversary reported that 100,000 people had registered to march and hundreds of thousands more lined Fifth Avenue in support. The article also said that anti-Israel protesters numbered in the hundreds.

“A front-page photograph, however, showed the parade in the background, with anti-Israel protesters prominent in the foreground, holding a placard that read, “End Israeli Occupation of Palestine.” Inside the newspaper, a photo of a pro-Israel marcher was outweighed by a larger picture of protesters, one waving a sign that likened Zionism to Nazism.

“Although the editors’ intent in each case was to note the presence of opposing sides, the effect was disproportionate. In fairness the total picture presentation should have better reflected The Times’s reporting on the scope of the event, including the disparity in the turnouts.”

No wonder so many people are canceling their subscription to The New York Times, and switching instead to The Sun – http://www.nysun.com/

===== ACTION RECOMMENDED =====

Too many reporters, correspondents, and producers just don’t know the facts, or they reduce the Arab-Israeli conflict to a few glib soundbytes.

HonestReporting members are encouraged to take the following steps:

1. Continue monitoring the press and television. Respond with polite, well-researched material. Some editors dismiss all letters of complaints by HonestReporting members or other activists because of a few letters from intemperate, rude, or scheming pro-Arab writers.

2. Meet with local reporters, editors and correspondents before they become national celebrities. Inform them of your concerns, and provide them with background material on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

3. Invite local reporters, editors and producers to meet with visiting Israeli academics or decision-makers.

4. Encourage local editors and reporters to visit Israel to see the complex issues first hand. Offer to help them plan their itinerary and meet former local citizens who now live in Israel.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

HonestReporting.com

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