Friday, August 20, 2004

How to Skew The News

Steven Erlanger, in his report published today, Friday, sought out additional
commentary and quoted from two Israelis, Nahum Barnea and Yaron Ezrahi.
Ezrahi also was quoted in another report this past week by Erlanger.

As a long-time observer of the New York Times' reporting on Israel, and having
had personal contacts with many correspondents, I wrote the following to the
newspaper's Public Editor:-

I have noticed that this aspect of journalism is particularly problematic. In the past, Thomas
Friedman would include quotations from Rabbi David Hartman as well as his Persian
grocery store owner. Other reporters also concentrated on just a few'outsiders'.

The problem is that the NYT reporters here almost exclusively rely on sources
who are Leftist or moderate, 'peace' pro-activists, anti-religious and anti-government.
I amnot referring to persons involved in the story but to those, like in Erlanger's report,
who are brought in from academia or the media to provide 'ambience" to the story.

This reliance on a rather cliquish and an elite band of sources will bias the reports
read by the NYT readers. Rarely is there a Rightist, a staunch Zionist or a conservative
philosopher or cleric. This is unfortunate and imbalanced.

I hope that my drawing attention to the area will prove a benefit to the
professional ethical reporting of the NYT.

And I could and should have added that these sources are always nebulously identified
without reference to their political views and ideological positions.

Mr. Sharon's largest problem is that his Gaza disengagement policy is
not what most Likud members want, said Nahum Barnea, a columnist with
Yediot Aharonot. "He's committed to continuing negotiations with Labor and
his disengagement plan," Mr. Barnea said. "But it's hard. He's weakened,
and he could really split Likud. And when you're weaker, people tend to
raise the price.''
Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said Mr. Sahron might
not consider it a catastrophe if Likud split. "He could head a huge center bloc
that would back his policies, if he could only get these guys in Likud off his back,''
he said.The temptation is for Mr. Sharon, Labor's Mr. Peres and Shinui's Tommy
Lapid, all over 75, and all of whom largely agree on Gaza and the dismantling
of some settlements, to unite to run on a single party list in the next election,
marginalizing the far right and the religious parties.But Mr. Barnea thinks that is
a very unlikely outcome, given the complexities. And Mr. Sharon seems to
understand that he needs at least some religious party to deal with the honest
agonies of the Israeli settler population.

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