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Journalistic offenses in times of crisis

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Journalists are taught to be fair and accurate. Reader and watcher, beware.

Jews surprised by the slanted coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, particularly at this dangerous intersection, better get used to it. Some anchors (we stress some) and journalists are engaging in debates and writing articles that are so lopsided that they strain not only our eyes and ears but our credulity as well.

On the July 8 broadcast of CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” Burnett wedged Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, into a verbal boxing ring. Fortunately, we have CNN’s transcript for an edited but accurate description of the match.

Burnett:“I mean, let me just ask you, in terms of what’s next. You heard [CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman in Gaza City] saying it’s a couple steps from a ground war. But are you prepared, are you planning to send in ground troops?”

Dermer:“Well, first let’s understand what happened today. We had 150 rockets fired at our cities. We had them fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That’s our Washington and New York . . . That’s what happened today in Israel.”

Burnett: “But when you look at the other side, there are Palestinian sources that say two of those killed today by an Israeli attack were children.” [Death is a fact of war — regrettable but undeniable. People will die, on both sides.] “And obviously, even if they were part of a human shield” [and Israel was targeting a Hamas militant], “there were children there. Is it still worth air strikes when you’re going to have to kill children?” [How many Israeli children have blown to bits by suicide bombers?]

Burnett: “The air assault that’s happening does follow the recent killings of teenagers on both sides. That’s important to emphasize, it has been on both sides, and of course the beating of Tariq abu Khdeir by Israeli police. And Tariq, as you know, Ron, is an American teen. He was the cousin of a Palestinian victim.” [Murdered Israeli teen Naftali Frenkel was a dual US-Israeli citizen.]

Later, Burnett tried to prove that Dermer lied when he said Israel would investigate: “This is where I get confused. Because on the one hand you said excessive force isn’t justified, but then you say wait until you hear what happens. It sounds like you’re saying it’s going to be justified.”

This was not an interview. It was an inquisition. Burnett is a fine journalist — just not when the subject is Israel. Time to reread the Journalism 101 chapter on fair and accurate reporting . . . within our lifetime.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 July 2014 01:04 )  

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