Op-Ed: Fighting Distorted Media Coverage of Israel (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld 05/13/12)
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Interview series: Andrea Levin of CAMERA, "The role of the
Palestinians in fueling conflict is slighted. The Times has an
undeniable tilt against Israel."
Pro-Israel media watching in the United States has grown rapidly over
the past twenty years. The explosive expansion of the Internet
enables media-monitoring organizations to transmit their findings
quickly to many readers by email, or by publishing them on websites
without incurring major expenses.
“Media coverage of the Middle East is often distorted. There are no
enforceable codes of professional conduct which apply to the media.
One can thus obtain change only in two ways. One is through private
appeals for accuracy, balance and fair play. The other is through
public exposure of journalistic misconduct.”
Andrea Levin is the Executive Director of the Boston-based Committee
for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) since 1991.
This organization is both pioneer and leader in the field of pro-
Israel media watching. Previously, Levin was Associate Editor of a
public policy journal at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Levin says: “We follow all major print and electronic media in the
United States as well as professional journals, websites,
encyclopedias, travel guides, and so forth. Success in media watching
is manifested in improved accuracy and context in the media
criticized. Some of CAMERA’s success stories involve the New York
Times, Reuters, and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
“Our primary focus is on contacting the media and having them correct
errors. This involves daily interactions between our professional
staff and media outlets and also frequently involves CAMERA enlisting
its activist network to challenge biased coverage.
"Beyond that, CAMERA’s staff continuously post critiques on the
CAMERA website and blog and write op-eds, letters and articles that
appear in newspapers, journals and Internet sites, setting the record
"In addition, we publish the CAMERA Media Report our flagship
magazine, which is sent to journalists, CAMERA members, libraries,
synagogues, and Congress.
“We’ve published monographs and special reports on, for instance,
National Public Radio’s bias, Arab building in Jerusalem, Jimmy
Carter’s biased apartheid book, the Gaza Cast Lead campaign and the
phenomenon of Jewish defamers of Israel. They are distributed to
thousands of people, plus elected officials.
"We also hold media conferences in many American cities and run full-
page ads on key issues such as anti-Israel incitement and distorted
coverage of terrorism. In the past, we’ve run ads about bias in The
Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los
Angeles Times, NPR, CNN, PBS and more.
“CAMERA also has 65,000 paying members, offices in six cities and
thousands of active letter writers. We have regular contact with a
great variety of experts when we need to check facts. We also have a
program called CAMERA Fellows that offers intensive training for
students in effective pro-Israeli activism.
“Of particular concern has been The New York Times, which continues
to be influential especially as a trend-setter for other media
outlets that often echo its story choice and emphasis. As in the
past, the newspaper is prone to placing the onus heavily on Israel
for problems of the Palestinians and absence of peace. The role of
the Palestinians in fueling conflict is slighted.
"In addition, The Times has been largely silent in the face of
increasing global anti-Semitism, doing almost nothing to expose the
biased enmity toward Israel. From the news pages to the opinion pages
and even into the culture sections, The Times has an undeniable tilt
against Israel. Many other mainstream media offer biased portrayals
of Israel, such as The New Yorker magazine, The Economist and The
“The Internet has changed the dynamic, obviously, adding countless
new voices to the discourse – some for the better and others for the
“Countering distortions and improving information about Israel is a
demanding process. Monitoring activities entail CAMERA staff members
tracking the print and electronic media as thoroughly as possible and
triaging that material to respond to the most important problems.
Staff members contact editors and reporters in the field. The aim is
to challenge all errors both in the news and the opinion pages and to
get corrections on record.
“One way to measure success in this work is to monitor specific
stories and issues that are covered inaccurately and when we’ve
gotten them corrected on the record, to see whether the media outlet
reports the same issue correctly in future coverage. Many times we’ve
seen long-lasting impact and improved accuracy. Another aspect of
success is the clear sense that after our intervention, there is more
palpable caution in some newspapers and networks, greater attention
to context, balance and accuracy.
“The great challenge is the magnitude of coverage and on the
Internet, the lack of standards and accountability. In 2007, CAMERA
also launched a Spanish language project and in 2009, a Hebrew
language Web site called Presspectiva, focused on educating Israeli
readers about the importance of holding their own media accountable.
Levin concludes: “Getting the facts right is crucial. That is why
correcting false statements is so important. Those corrections have
an internal impact at the media outlet and often a lasting effect in
changing coverage for the better.” (IsraelNationalNews © 2012
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