Model Activism In Philly


Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

Over the past three years, HonestReporting has critiqued a number of cases of biased Mideast coverage at the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer’s anti-Israel bias seems entrenched in their editorial culture; when the Inquirer’s Reader’s Advocate was asked why they use the word “terrorist” when violence is committed against U.S. civilians, but not when violence is directed against Israeli civilians, she replied, “I can’t explain that.” (Philadelphia Weekly, August 28, 2002, page 24).

Philadelphia media monitors have now taken matters one step further, launching a sustained and passionate local campaign to demand the Inquirer report the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with greater fairness and honesty. Last summer, the activists held a rally outside the Inquirer offices, which was recognized dismissively on the Inquirer editorial page. But recently, the activists’ growing numbers, strong documentation, and firm conviction merited more serious attention from Inquirer editors, and they’re beginning to see real results.

Here’s an overview of the Philly activists’ remarkable recent accomplishments:

(1) Two highly-detailed reports were released (under the auspices of the Zionist Organization of America): The first, a 100-day study of the Inquirer’s Mideast coverage, includes hundreds of examples of the Inquirer’s clear pattern of bias against Israel in headlines, story placement, language, and staff editorials. For example, one front-page Inquirer report included a photo of two Jewish men praying in the Cave the Patriarchs in Hebron. Yet the caption described it only as “the Mosque of Ibrahim,” framing it is as an Islamic religious site ? with no indication that it is the second holiest site in Judaism.

Philadelphia activists also released a more general White Paper, which outlines the ongoing problem of anti-Israel bias at the Inquirer and calls for a boycott from advertisers and Inquirer subscribers.

(2) On August 19, community leaders met in the Inquirer offices with the publisher, senior editors, and editorial cartoonist Tony Auth. The agenda ? discussing Auth’s cartoon of July 31, which depicted Palestinians caged within a Star of David and bore a shocking resemblance to a 1930’s Nazi propaganda poster.

[A previous Auth cartoon (8/4/02) equated collateral damage from Israeli operations with deliberate Palestinian attacks on civilians. In Auth’s view, both are irresponsible murders. Another cartoon in the Inquirer, by Don Wright, pictured a Koran and a Bible, captioned respectively: “Not one word urges suicide bombings against the Israelis” and “Not one word urges the assassination of Palestinians.” These cartoons capture the Inquirer’s longstanding moral equivalence between, on the one hand, premeditated targeting of women and babies, and on the other, self-defense efforts directed only at terrorists.]

Though the meeting produced no formal apology from Auth or the paper, it is telling that the very next day (8/20), the Inquirer published two uncharacteristically strong condemnations of Palestinian terror: a staff editorial that actually used the word “terrorism” to describe the Jerusalem bus bombing, and this Auth cartoon of a skeleton hand clutching dynamite, captioned “The terrorists share their vision for the future of the Middle East” :


(3) This week, Dr. Robert Sklaroff submitted his latest comprehensive filing against the Inquirer to the Society of Professional Journalists. Dr. Sklaroff is requesting a formal review of the Inquirer from this respected independent organization.  The very consideration of the matter by the SPJ certainly generated unease in the Inquirer newsroom.

The Philadelphia campaign ? orchestrated by many HonestReporting subscribers ? is an outstanding example of how a committed group of grassroots activists can successfully affect change in major local media. From critical reading, to careful letter-writing, meeting with editors, detailed documentation, boycotts, and appeals to independent bodies, the message is getting through: Philadelphia residents will not tolerate the ongoing anti-Israel line of the Inquirer.

HonestReporting sponsors a popular “Media Patrol Program,” which empowers members to effectively fight bias in their local media. The program uses our Media Patrol Guidebook, which includes:

– The 10 Principles Of Media Patrolling
– How To Analyze The Media
– Tips For Writing Good Letters

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to check out the Media Patrol Program webpage for more information. By working together, we can make the changes that are very necessary, and ensure that Israel gets the fair media coverage that every nation deserves.