Much work has been done to study newspapers, magazines, television and radio in the United States and the extent of bias they exhibit against Arabs, Islam, and particularly the Palestinians. It is noticeable in terms of the amount of space given to people wounded or killed and whether or not they have names and biographies. (The more information, the more real the person becomes.) Bias also shows up in terms of the words which are used to describe people and groups of people. (For example, "Palestinian terrorists" and "Israeli citizens.")
There is also much misunderstanding about the cultural context as well as the details of the occupation, names of towns, etc. (For example, the word "Palestinian" or "Arab" cannot be used to mean Muslims since there are also Christians in both categories.) People have very short memories of history which can be exploited in news reporting. (For example, the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus was a Muslim shrine long before Jewish nationalists took it over and declared it a Jewish shrine after the occupation began in 1967.) The attack by Palestinians was written up as if the shrine had always been Jewish.
There are several sub parts to this page.
- Organizations specializing in tracking media
- Some suggestons for things you can do yourself
- Why and how to write or contact media
- How to find contact addresses
Several organizations specialize in tracking media and holding the media accountable.
www.al-Awda.org/media analyzes the media and gives suggestions for others to do so as well.
www.abunimah.org contains comments by Ali Abunimah, professor at the University of Chicago.
www.Fair.org stands for fairness and accuracy in reporting, tracks media spin on these issues. Includes a media action kit andd good connecions to media.
www.mediamonitors.net monitors the media just as its name says.
http://ElectronicIntifada.net is a site with good analysis of the ways in which bias is perpetuated and good advice on countering bias.
www.pmwatch.org includes a report on the Philadelphia newspapers and specific ideas for media monitoring. It includes a Story Score Sheet and a collection site for storing the analysis you make. It includes how to make effective phone calls and write good letters.
www.qumsiyeh.org is a human rights website which includes an activist manual on media which is very helpful. Has a list of alternative media.
www.mondoweiss.net is a website that offers insight on media coverage and is a good "corrective" source of information.
How You Can Be a More Critical Consumer of Media
- Begin by informing yourself using alternative sources of information such as websites for your information. You can access the Israeli newspapers such as Ha'aretz, which are often much fairer than American newspapers. Go to News on the Web page.
- Monitor the media for distorted news reporting and inaccurate and hostile opinion and OpEd pieces. Look for especially good reporting or opinions. Look for the following distortions:
a. Watch for opinion that masquerades as reporting. Also look for the facts which support or do not support an opinion. Are the facts true to begin with? Do the facts lead to the conclusion? Is a statement by one side presented as a fact or as a statement? Use as a criteria what you have learned about the years of occupation as since 1967 well as things you learn by accessing alternative news.
b. Focus on what is reported and what is NOT reported, incomplete information, selective omission, lack of context, etc. Some specific stories not often reported include the bombing of the YMCA rehabilitation center by the Israelis; economic hardships of Palestinians; house demolitions; killing of Palestinian children, ambulances stopped from getting to hospitals; violence perpetrated by settlers, etc. Is the context of Israeli occupation since 1967 included?
c. Watch for little details such as the words used to describe Palestinians or Israelis. There is a difference between the term "rioting" and "demonstrating", between "terrorist" and "defender." Look at the use of "provoke", "incitement", "violent" and see if they are used only for one side. For more, go to Style Sheet
d. When the media mentions Palestinians or Israelis, are they reporting simply numbers or are their identities given with their name, age, family, etc.
e. Where is the material placed? If there are several stories, which gets the best position?
f. Does the photo support the article or distort its meaning? Is the headline true to the story or is it misleading?
- Contact the media whenever you see a story reported in an even-handed manner. Let them know your appreciation of their improved coverage. They need to hear when they are doing a good job. Call attention to inaccuracy and distorted reporting, as well. Let them know you are watching what they say. Suggest other ways of describing a situation. (For instance, the settlement of Gilo is built on Palestinian land occupied in 1967 and then incorporated into Jerusalem. It is one of the first settlements even though Israel calls it a neighborhood.) Commend journalists but don't overlook the distorted reporting. Don't ever threaten or send hate mail. Don't make media feel they are biased or the target of a campaign.
- Organize in church or other groups and among like-minded friends. If you are working with a church group, let the media know that, and remember that Palestinians and Israeli Arabs may be Christians as well as Muslims. Send letters, faxes and emails with as many signatures as possible. Make phone calls where appropriate. Send copies to people in power in your government and denomination. Go as a group to talk with editors and heads of radio and TV stations. Bring prominent people with you, if you can. Tell them you will be following up. Get the group prepared to send in Letter to the Editor on upcoming issues.
- Be courteous and professional; educate and persuade; be positive. Suggest better information or ways of saying things. But do it often enough and consistently that they will be more careful in reporting.
- Suggest that journalists prepare background articles on the violence of the more than 40 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, in order to help people understand the present context of resistance, especially non-violent forms. Suggest and write other background material. Reporters tend to focus on individual violence but occupation of a country and state violence are still forms of violence. Write about human stories on a pertinent subject.
- Make it a long-term project to get more accurate and less biased reporting about the Middle East. Form a coalition and give it a name, create letterhead, and send letters in the name of the coalition.
Why you should make these contacts
Some people wonder if letters to the editor or other media contacts are really worth while. Only a few get published, after all. Letters to the Editor or to a journalist have many functions. It is not necessary for it to be published to fulfill some of these functions. If you don't expect it to be printed, write it anyway and share it with other people. Maybe they would like to write a letter as well or sign your letter. At the least they would learn something. Consider using the letter to show your solidarity with people or issues by sending copies to appropriate institutions.
When replying to a specific piece, use Email since it is an instant reply. Fax is also useful for speed. Only mail a letter if you have no other way of contacting the journalist or if you include extensive documentation. Time is usually of the utmost importance. You can send an Email and also mail a copy. Keep it to a single issue and keep it short.
- To clarify for yourself what your thoughts are;
- To learn more about the subject;
- To get a countervailing argument or information into the minds of the public;
- To show the reporter or editor that you are paying attention to what they produce;
- To inform the reporter or editor on a subject where they have inadequate information.
How to write
Begin with the title of the story or editorial you are replying to and the date it appeared.
Be courteous and never shout (that means don't ever write in all capitals).
Write succinctly and to the point. Write on one point only.
If you include statistics, cite your source.
If your observations are the result of personal experience, say so.
Don't generalize about what others are thinking or saying.
Include your title, profession, specific experience, etc.
Send your address and phone number with the letter. The media will call to confirm who you are if they are considering using your letter.
How to find out to whom to write?
Check in the written material itself for that information.
For radio and TV, the end of a program often produces such information. Most media outlets have their own websites. Look in the section "contact us" on the website.
Go on the website www.fair.org/media-contact-list.html for a good list.
There is a list on the Foreign Policy Association website called http://congress.org along with the names of Senators and Representatives. Much of the website information about Israel/Palestine is Israeli oriented, though.
Also write to or send copies to people in power and show them what you are doing on media watching. The following are contact numbers.
ABC News - 212-456-7777
CBS News - 212-975-4321
NBC News - 212-664-4971
WNBC - 201-735-2622
CNN - 404-827-1500
Fox News - 212-301-3000
MSNBC - 201-583- 5000
PBS - 703-739-5000
NPR - 202-513-2000
NY Times - 212-556-1234
USA Today - 703-854-2165
Wall Street Journal - 212-416-2000
Washington Post - 202-334-6000
Time - 212-522-1212
Newsweek - 212-445-4000
U. S. News - 202-955-2000
Assocciated Press - 212-621-1500
CNBC - 201-735-2622
L. A. Times - 213-237-4712
Email addresses are found on www.Fair.org