On Wednesday, the Israel Public Diplomacy Forum stopped at UNM to give a talk on the problems with western media coverage of conflicts and issues in the Middle East.
Dr. Eytan Gilboa, chair and academic director of the organization that seeks to educate and advance understanding of Middle Eastern and Israeli issues, presented on the subject during the group’s New Mexico leg of its three-state trip.
His presentation focused on ways that coverage of Middle Eastern affairs is being blurred through specific techniques that western media utilize.
“These are always difficult issues because often journalists face dilemmas, especially when they are threatened to submit a particular report,” Gilboa said. “When your life is on the line, then you may behave in ways that contradict professional and ethical norms.”
Gilboa credited part of the problem to what he calls “new journalism” – a shift from traditional, objective reporting to journalism that is obligated to take a stand on an issue.
Gilboa said that, unfortunately, the concept of new journalism has led to inaccurate reporting, particularly on the Middle East.
“Objectivity, neutrality, balance and fairness ... forget about all of those,” he said. “These belong to perhaps a previous age and a previous generation of journalists.”
He said that framing — putting emphasis on particular events to reach a subjective conclusion — is one of the main components of new journalism, or “journalism of attachment.”
“The goal is to promote a particular interpretation,” he said, “which runs contrary to many professional and ethical norms ... framing is usually the opposite of objective and fair journalism.”
He said such framing is usually done in the headlines and sub-headlines of stories, which, in some instances, might be all that an individual sees about a story.
Gilboa also cited the first paragraphs of stories, source use and graphics as things that may be manipulated through framing for media outlets to convey a certain message to the public.
He also presented a recent front-page picture from the New York Times, which seemed to show an Israeli policeman beating a Palestinian citizen.
However, Gilboa said that the picture can be misinterpreted — especially with the lack of context in the photo’s caption — and that the policeman was actually assisting the man.
“We have to conclude that there is some kind of a mental thinking ... that when editors at the New York Times see something like that, it could not be otherwise, it must be an Israeli policeman beating a Palestinian,” Gilboa said. “This is both professional and ethical failure.”
Gilboa suggested that one reason for the seemingly biased and inaccurate coverage is an anti-Israeli mentality perpetuated in the media.
“(There may be) something against whatever Israel does, that whatever Israel does is wrong, and you can see it in European coverage and some American coverage.”
UNM journalism instructor Jaelyn DeMaria, who attended Gilboa’s lecture, said that journalistic preference is not just a trait of western media, but of all media and news outlets.
“I believe that we all carry all of our own life experience and internal biases with us as reporters,” DeMaria said. “I think that as long as human beings create media, there will be bias.”
The pubic should always be critical of the media they consume in order to be responsible consumers, especially when it comes to global concerns, she said.
“It is critically important for all people to be informed about what is happening around the world,” she said, “because foreign affairs impact the underlying foundation of our collective world.”
In contrast, near the end of his lecture, Gilboa took the stance that western media are skewing their reporting, blurring the public’s understanding of what is happening overseas.
“There is something very mysterious about the way Israel is being covered in western media, including the American media,” he said. “Reporters are not supposed to make mistakes like this ... the fact that they do occur means that there’s something wrong with this coverage.”
David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.