Moran’s Public Whining

With all the media problems out there, HonestReporting has better things to do than deal with the private whinings of disgruntled reporters. But when the reporter expresses those views in a public forum, it then falls under the realm of “media bias” and HonestReporting must respond.

Michael Moran of MSNBC.com writes this week about TerrorPetition.com, the grassroots campaign calling on the media to call Palestinian suicide bombers “terrorists.” Moran’s column is not only full of factual inaccuracies, but — as evidenced by the title, “THE TERRORISM THING” — it is a sarcastic, insulting look at a topic of life and death for Israeli Jews.

HonestReporting will respond point by point:

* * *

MORAN: “MSNBC.com does use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe someone who has been convicted of a terrorist act, or someone who has admitted the act or been caught in the act.”

HONESTREPORTING: First of all, we challenge Moran to produce a record of MSNBC.com meeting this definition. Using MSNBC.com’s own search engine, we could not find any use of the term applied to Palestinian suicide bombers.

Furthermore, MSNBC.com needs to get their story straight. Moran’s claim outright contradicts MSNBC.com guidelines as articulated by Dan Fischer, MSNBC.com’s own ombudsman in March 2002: MSNBC.com “reporters and producers have been instructed not to use [the term 'terrorism'] in news reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict except in direct quotations.”

Finally, by Moran’s own definition — “someone who has been convicted of a terrorist act, or someone who has admitted the act or been caught in the act” — even the World trade Center bombers could barely be defined as terrorists. Since they (like Palestinian bombers) commit suicide, they will never be “convicted,” nor will they ever “admit” their involvement, and frequently there are no surviving witnesses to prove they were “caught in the act.”

* * *

MORAN: “What we don’t do (and this is what irks ‘Honestreporting’) is throw the word around at every Palestinian who opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

HONESTREPORTING: Moran again fabricates falsehoods and attributes them to HonestReporting. We challenge Moran to produce any statement — real or implied — that HonestReporting applies “terrorist” to every Palestinian.

Actually, HonestReporting sticks to the standard definition of “terrorist” as set down by U.S. law: “…premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets…” [Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d)]

In fact, HonestReporting labels a “terrorist” anyone who fits the criteria. We therefore approve of the Jerusalem Post headline (June 13): “Alleged Jewish Terrorists on Trial Next Week.” Yes, Jews who intentionally target innocent civilians should also be called terrorists.

* * *

MORAN:TerrorPetition.com is “aimed at muzzling free speech.”

HONESTREPORTING: Calling for journalistic accountability is hardly equated with muzzling free speech. If MSNBC.com were genuinely concerned with objectively reporting the news, they would welcome the public call for a fair application of terminology in their news stories.

* * *

MORAN: TerrorPetition.com “has urged its subscribers to vent their collective spleen by pelting the accused with angry e-mails demanding that we fall into line, or else.”

HONESTREPORTING: In fact, TerrorPetition.com has engaged in only one activity: collecting e-mail signatures. There has been no call to complain to any media outlets. Moran’s statement is pure fabrication.

We are bewildered that Michael Moran is so averse to criticism that he has to spend the better part of his time discrediting the critic. Perhaps this debate would be more productive if Moran would stop the insults and address the real issues instead. He could start by evaluating MSNBC.com policy in light of American law, and getting his story straight with his own ombudsman.

In the meantime, HonestReporting will continue to challenge media attempts to defend the murderers of innocent Israelis.

If you wish to share your thoughts on this issue (but please don’t “vent your spleen”), write to:

letters@msnbc.com
world@msnbc.com

===== UPDATE: JUNE 25, 2002 =====

Michael Moran returns from vacation and complains again about HonestReporting members swamping him with emails. Moran still fails to address any of the salient issues, however.

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