Zerbisias knocks HR, redefines ‘objectivity’

Zerbisias2In her column today, Toronto Star’s Antonia Zerbisias questions our recent report publicizing Reuters’ admission that its editors regulate the language of news reports to safeguard reporters in Arab areas.

Remarkably, Zerbisias experiences no cognitive dissonance between a) believing Reuters provides ‘straightforward objective reporting,’ and b) Reuters’ active regulating of language to appease volitile bad guys. How could a news outlet be ‘objective’ if it’s afraid of what one side of the conflict will do to its reporters if it uses the ‘wrong’ word?

How objective is a referee who fears calling a foul against one team, lest they beat him up after the game?

Zerbisias completely sidesteps this, the central issue in our critique. Instead, Zerbisias asks why we didn’t question CanWest’s altering of Reuters copy. The answer should be obvious — CanWest’s decision is based solely on its editors’ judgement of what constitutes accurate, independent news reporting. This, as opposed to Reuters, whose own ‘Trust Principles’ stipulate that

the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters must be upheld at all times.

Reuters violates this principle — undermining its readers’ trust in its ‘independence’ — when it allows threats from Islamic thugs to influence word choice in ostensibly ‘neutral’ news reports.

The use/non-use of the ‘T-word’ in news reporting is a debatable matter. But for a major news outlet to claim to readers it is ‘independent’ and ‘unbiased’, while admitting it regulates word choice in response to threats, is hypocritical and irresponsible.

Comments to Ms. Zerbisias: azerbis@thestar.ca