Press Transformation?

Dear Honest Reporting Member

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, has written an important article asserting that the American press has been transformed since the terrorist assault on the World Trade Center. In “The Press in Time of War: How Things Have Changed Since September 11,” Barnes wrote:

“For a generation now, the type of reporting practiced first in Washington and then nationwide has been adversarial, cynical, and highly negative… [But since September 11], the stories were fact-filled, fair, balanced, poignant, comprehensive, and politically neutral. There were even murmurs of patriotism.”

Since the start of the Palestinian war against Israel last year, HonestReporting has complained of reporters forsaking moral principles in the search for “even-handedness.” Barnes reports how this evenhanded virus spread to some members of the press at the start of American attacks in Afghanistan:

“On October 23, [ABC News President] David Westin spoke to a class at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Asked if the Pentagon were a legitimate target for attack by America’s enemies, he said, ‘I actually don’t have an opinion on that… as a journalist I feel strongly that’s something I should not be taking a position on.'” (Westin later apologized.)

Of great significance for HonestReporting members, Barnes writes of the impact of media monitoring groups: “One significant factor gets little notice: the scrutiny the national press now gets from media critics, watchdog groups, press websites, and astute journalistic observers… The result is a makeshift kind of accountability that didn’t exist until recently. Large media organizations once haughtily ignored… criticism. Now they have to take it into account and react.”

Read Barnes’ article at:

====== WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US ======

Supporters of Israel assumed that following the September 11 attacks, government leaders, newspapers, and public opinion would shift toward an understanding of Israeli suffering at the hands of Arab terrorists. That shift did not occur — until now.

With the exceptions of BBC and the UK Guardian (the outrageous Suzanne Goldenberg criticized Israel for insensitivity toward Muslims by attacking PA targets during the iftar meal ending the Ramadan fast), almost all major publications did not hesitate to label the bombings in Israel as acts of “terrorism” committed by “terrorists.”

Newspapers around the world railed against Ararat for inciting and supporting terrorism against innocent civilians. The characterization is important: Those who harbor Palestinian terrorists are no different than the Taliban who harbored al-Qeida. Here is a sampling:

MIAMI HERALD: “The weekend terror attacks in Israel should put to rest any doubt that there can be a different response to different acts of terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter where it occurs, whether in New York, London, Jerusalem or Haifa. It should be attacked with the same intensity and focus of purpose, lest the terrorists succeed in their vile cause: to cripple the will and destroy the spirit of innocent people. If that message hasn’t been absolutely clear in recent U.S. policy toward Israel because of America’s preoccupation with anti-terrorism war in Afghanistan, then there can be no doubt of its applicability now.”

U.K. SUN: “Democracies, of which Israel is one, have a right to defend themselves. No one has the right to blow up buses or cafes packed with innocent people… Up until September 11, many in the West failed to understand the Israeli position — now we understand it all too well. Israel cannot negotiate with terrorists — because these people seek the destruction of the Jewish state.”

PROVIDENCE (RHODE ISLAND) JOURNAL: “Perhaps the weekend’s terrorist attacks in Israel will finally cure those who believe that Yasser Arafat and the corrupt dictatorship that he runs like a Mafia boss, the Palestinian Authority, are somehow partners in the bogus Mideast ‘peace process.'”

MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE: “Arafat chose violence 14 months ago when he at the very least acquiesced to Intefadeh II, the armed uprising against Israel that has brought so much death, destruction and bitterness to both Israelis and Palestinians.”

SACRAMENTO (CA) BEE: “Whether the Palestinian leader is complicit in violence or merely impotent, he deserves no reward until he shows he is truly master in his own house.”

HONOLULU ADVERTISER: “The only way out of a terrible, bloody war is for Arafat to demonstrate to Israel and to the world that he is capable of stopping the terrorism — or publicly and permanently get out of the way.”

THE TIMES OF LONDON: “The best possible outcome for all concerned would be if Palestinians, as well as Israelis, come to regard the political emasculation of Mr Arafat as a blessing in disguise.”

====== WHAT YOU CAN DO ======

HonestReporting urges members to scrutinize their local media for the following points:

– Are there signs of transformation, or are editors still trying to maintain a false even-handedness?

– Do they characterize Palestinian suicide attacks as “terrorism?”

– Do they characterize Israel’s response as legitimate self-defense?

– Do they recognize the similarities between the American and Israeli wars against terrorism?

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

====== ONE MEMBER’S SUCCESS ======

HonestReporting member Matthew M. saw a biased headline on BBC and e-mailed to complain:

> From: Matthew M.

This complaint is in regards to the BBC article, “Four Die in Israel Shooting Rampage.” This headline is outrageous! Palestinian terrorists fired automatic weapons indiscriminately into crowds of civilians, killing two Israeli civilians and injuring 40 others, several seriously; then two of the terrorists were killed in the act by brave policemen, thus preventing even more victims — and this is the BBC’s headline?! Why on earth is the BBC classifying these two murderers as victims? This is ludicrous!

wsOnline subsequently changed the headline and thanked Matthew for pointing out the error. You can make a difference!