Thursday, December 24, 2009

Go View the Day-by-Day Review Site

Journalists and Cast Lead One Year Later:
A Day-by-Day Review at Second Draft,
December 27, 2009-January 18, 2010

Few conflicts in the history of warfare have produced three drafts of the events in less than a year – from real-time media dispatches to NGO studies to the UN reports, culminating in the Goldstone report eight months later. The Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) was a brief conflict but subject to heavy media coverage and subsequent investigation. As a result, we have a particularly rich terrain in which to analyze the relationship between the media, its sources of information, framework for interpretation and its critics. In particular cases – Samouni Street, Abd Rabbo, and the UN School (Fakhoura) – we can trace both the story and its treatment over time in detail.

On December 27, 2009, at the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Second Draft inaugurates a daily review of Mainstream News Media (MSNM) coverage. Each day we will post several segments of coverage by BBC and CNN International for viewing and comment. In addition to that video footage, we will post links to the major print news items for that day, the appearance of the incidents as covered by Human Rights NGO Reports and the Goldstone Report. Finally we will include various blogposts and subsequent research that examines both the claims made by Palestinians and the coverage of the media.

We welcome readers comments, suggestions and additional sources (either MSNM or blogs to include). Although our initial offering is critical of the "first draft of history," we welcome contrary analyses and will post serious criticism of our work and defense of the work of the MSNM, as well as reasoned and evident-based critics from the other side (ie, that the news media favors Israel).

We see this as a growing archive which will present an excellent occasion for the public, students of journalism, and analysts to review and reconsider the performance of the news media and their critics, and in the process raise such crucial issues in media coverage and NGO/UN reports as:

Framework: What conceptual frameworks do members of the media and NGOs use to cover the war (post-colonial, Islam vs the West, conventional vs asymmetric war, as a legal/ethical drama)? To what extent do members of the media/NGOs filter news through personal/professional experience from previous postings, historical precedents, parallels in their home countries? How and how well have the two sides to the conflict (Israel and the Palestinians) succeeded in bringing their narrative to the media and the broader public?

Sources: How are sources – eyewitnesses, images, government/military officials, NGOs chosen and validated? How governments and others do in authority influence coverage (bans on entry to war zones, embedding, intimidation) and what are the ramifications? To what extent has Israel/the Palestinians succeed to develop the mechanisms to cope with the new media environment?

Credibility/Authority: How critical is the traditional mass media in framing the war narrative, informing public opinion? What is the weight of new media (bloggers etc.) in influencing news? Does it have the ability to generate news and how much credibility do the public/opinion makers/traditional media give it? Which public opinion is being influenced (opinion leaders, U.S. vs European opinion) by the new/old media? To what extent do the media’s critics have influence over coverage and public opinion?

Ethics of Professional Journalism: What are the epistemological and ethical principles on which reporting should be based? To what extent is advocacy journalism legitimate? How much should journalists reveal about the conditions of their and their colleagues’ work (intimidation, access, favors, pressures to produce, financial issues)? What is the meaning of trying to achieve “balance,” “even handedness,” and “fairness”? To whom or to what does the journalist ultimately owe his loyalty?

These questions, important in their own right, have larger implications: world public opinion plays a significant role in determining the progress and outcomes of conflicts like Cast Lead. History no longer belongs to the winners but to the media. The Goldstone report and its interpretation of the conflict have a more direct impact, not only creating an authoritative draft of the history but as the basis for further legal action including lawfare.

We welcome participation from people of all opinions and political orientations. Please leave comments, suggest additional footage and articles to cite, and grade the performers, both the journalists and their critics.

Richard Landes teaches History at Boston University, and his book, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience, will be published by Oxford U. Press next year. He is the creator of The Second Draft; he blogs at The Augean Stables; and he has also assembled the material presented at Understanding the Goldstone Report.

No comments: