June 27, 2012

MEDIA COMMENT: Media doublespeak

Posted in Media tagged , at 10:50 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Media Doublespeak

Has media literacy become a difficult task rather than a celebration of democracy and freedom of expression?

Walter Lippman noted in his 1922 book Public Opinion that the media helps its consumers understand the links between news events and why they could be critical. In 1963, Bernard Cohen famously observed that the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.”

Cohen viewed writers, editors and publishers as drawing maps for their consumers, and the danger was in getting lost. Drs. McCombs and Shaw added the agenda-setting concept – the more frequently an item is repeated and the more prominent the coverage it receives, the more important audiences will regard the issue to be regardless of its true value.

There is another important concept, especially prominent in Israel’s media; the use of language. Society is influenced not only by the language used by the media, but more so by the language it isn’t “authorized” to use.

For example, on June 17, Ynet carried the headline, “Youngsters [na’arim in the Hebrew] ignited a blaze, 14 soldiers injured at an Army base.”

Are these “youngsters” kids? Or perhaps teenagers, or even young men? Could they be Jewish? If so, were they haredim, or crocheted- skullcap wearers, or secular? Or maybe they were Christian? Journalistic ethics dictates that ethnic labeling is to be avoided, and Ynet justifiably did not use an ethnic headline.

On the other hand, the story continues, we learn from the firefighting unit’s spokesperson that between June 1 and June 16, 284 fires had been deliberately set in periphery neighborhoods such as Har Homa, Arnona and Armon HaNatziv.

What could be behind these torchings? Is it pyromaniacs or anti-state elements? Why does Ynet does not find it necessary to consider the possible motivations for such crimes? Did the Ynet reporter ignore his investigative training and simply not ask the spokesman? Or perhaps the perpetrators are not “price tag” activists, so that it would be embarrassing to actually disclose what really motivates such acts? Or did he ask the question and his editor spiked that portion? Why exclude the possibility of a nationalist-inspired crime? And now we have experienced fires set near Lifta and Motza near Jerusalem.

THE BLOGGER “Elder of Zion” posted a critique of what he thought was a similar language manipulation on June 15, but by foreign media. It had been reported in Haaretz that after altercations broke out between Sudanese migrants living in the town of Kfar Manda and the local population, that a hundred of the migrants agreed to move elsewhere.

In fact, 15 persons were injured in the fracas when noise, coming from an adjacent apartment, caused violent altercations to break out between dozens of locals and the African migrants. The townsfolk reportedly even chanted “clear out the foreigners” according to Ynet news.

Language-primed media consumers would assume the location was another center like the south Tel Aviv area where riots had broken out a few days previously. After all, that is the agenda item. That is the box of comprehension to which we have been sensitized.

In this case, however, the incident occurred in Kfar Manda, an Arab village in the north of the country. In reviewing the mainstream media abroad, EOZ couldn’t find any news about it and surmised that due to the identity of the “locals,” the media preferred to simply ignore the story. The frame of “Jews being racist” and “Jews versus blacks” was not to be disturbed and language self-censorship was to be the tool. To his mind, that actually represented media bigotry.

Another aspect, more purposefully unethical, is the media language bias when a news outlet that produces material both in English and Hebrew, as does Haaretz, alters the information between the two sites. This phenomenon is well-known in the Middle East but was usually the domain of Arab leaders like Nasser and Arafat, who said one thing to their own people while providing the West with a much more palliative version.

It has been adopted now in Israel.

One example is the doubt that has arisen over how Haaretz selectively translated Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s words in a Ma’ariv interview to make him sound racist. The story’s sub-headline reads: “Interior Minister says migrants do not recognize that Israel ‘belongs to the white man.’” However, the quotation is partial. As the original Hebrew has it, the quote really is: “Most of the people coming here are Muslims who think the land doesn’t belong to us at all, to the white man. A number of them have said that openly on television.”

Yishai was quoting what the illegal immigrants had said, claiming that this was their opinion, that Israel doesn’t belong to the “white man,” but Haaretz in English implanted a racist spin to his words.

The first to note, over a decade ago, the serious discrepancies between the versions of Haaretz was the late Dr. Joseph Lerner. At the time, he initiated Israel’s Media Watch’s first review of this phenomenon. Today, Israel’s Media Watch is completing yet another report on Haaretz and its English edition.

The findings indicate simple errors or typos (sloppy editing), the usage of progressive, post-modernist nomenclature such as “peace activists” for left-wingers and “militants” for those engaged in terror, mislabeling, such as “House of Dissension” rather than its official name, or such as “administrative prisoners” rather than “detainees,” leaving out relevant information that provides proper context, among others.

Presspectiva, the Israeli arm of CAMERA, has also been focusing on Haaretz, as well as on Ynet. Their findings are similar. They noted mistranslation, ignoring of facts, such as “an injured man” rather than “an injured Palestine Authority security officer.”

They have even succeeded in gaining a judgment from the Ethics Court of the Israel Press Council against Ynet and reporter Elior Levi. The court’s decision declared that in a video clip that was uploaded to the Ynet web site “there is a complete contradiction between what is written in the article and the pictures seen in the video clip. It is a substantive contradiction.”

The paper claimed that a mother had not been allowed to accompany her child who had been arrested. The video showed that in fact the mother was request to accompany her son eight times – but refused.

Has media literacy become a difficult task rather than a celebration of democracy and freedom of expression?



June 21, 2012

MEDIA COMMENT: Does the media care about its public?

Posted in Media tagged at 12:29 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Does the media care about its public?


Over 200 persons from both sides of the Green Line convened at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Hotel and were presented with material.

This past Monday, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, better known as the YESHA Council, conducted a full day’s Media and Public Diplomacy Conference.

Over 200 persons from both sides of the Green Line convened at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Hotel and were presented with material, written and digital, as well as new and soon-to-be-viral video clips.

The mood was upbeat despite the concern over the looming crisis in connection with the Ulpana neighborhood’s evacuation.

Back in October 2008, Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer proclaimed, following a YESHA Council initiative to bring media personalities and opinion makers across the Green Line to acquaint themselves with the reality on the ground, that “I don’t feel that any great breakthrough in public opinion was achieved.” Some four years later, the situation has changed, dramatically.

Oppenheimer recently expressed Peace Now’s alarm in an advert which read: “Without us realizing what has happened, the Right has effected true revolution in public opinion on the issue of the territories. Recently, they have established a well-oiled public information unit that is active on several fronts.”

THERE IS no doubt that the media’s treatment of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is an ongoing issue of contention. Charges of left-wing bias are frequently heard. The critical reactions from the audience to the presentations of Hilik Sharir, formerly Ma’ariv’s deputy editor and currently deputy director for content programming at Channel 2 News, and Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s Arab Affairs correspondent, who ascended the speaker’s platform at the conference were clear expressions of their frustrations. Media conduct and ethics continues to remain a bone of contention.

The fact though, that mainstream media “stars” felt comfortable and unconcerned in lending their names to such a conference is newsworthy of itself. Newsworthy, too, was the appearance of Deputy Foreign Minister MK Danny Ayalon, who delivered a 40-minute talk and a video conveying regards from Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein.

Former Ariel Sharon media advisor Arnon Pearlman was also a speaker. Newsworthy, but not reported. Except for Arutz 7’s website.

Sharir defended his news output, his correspondents and his editorial calls. Sharir’s version is that all decisions regarding the show’s line-up stem from professional considerations.

That the media can be prejudicial and unethical is no secret and is not just a reflection of what happens in Israel. Peter Sissons, a 20-year veteran BBC broadcaster and anchor of news and current affairs programs, confessed in January 22, 2011, that the BBC’s “very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.” He further asserted that “‘bias is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset.’” Sissons added, in a remarkable admission, “I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of ‘The Guardian’ and told ‘it’s all in there.’” If this is the inside scoop from a very high-level insider, in such a prestigious – and state-sponsored – media organization, then perhaps the protestations of innocence by our local directors and editors should be taken with a grain of salt.

Sharir was candid, however, in admitting less-than-perfect standards. Once, he informed participants, he produced a program that included a video clip from one of the extreme leftist groups opposed to Jews residing in Judea and Samaria, which aired before the Sabbath had ended. This circumvented the need to broadcast a response, as those involved observed the Sabbath and couldn’t be interviewed.

He also acknowledged that the panels on programs broadcast on the Sabbath were not all balanced since it was difficult to include Israelis whose political viewpoint supported and represented the Jewish settlements of Judea and Samaria and their ideology.

At question time, he was asked about two of his reporters, who were trained by the Agenda Group, a NGO organization whose director, journalist Anat Saragusti, was formerly employed at HaOlam HaZeh, Uri Avneri’s extreme-left weekly.

Agenda promotes itself as a Center for Strategic Communications, a “unique not-for-profit center working to reprioritize and reframe social change issues within the Israeli public debate and media.”

This includes the goal of achieving a “long-term and strategic shift in the media’s approach to key social change issues… to impact the public agenda and the policy-making processes… in the media arena in planned and pro-active ways.”

Sharir’s response was, “They are professional.”

In Sharir’s world, left-wing reporters do not have any biases. Sharir had no compunctions about employing minority-representing journalists (one is Ethiopian; the other an Arab) even though their professional credentials are highly partisan and ideologically-driven.

He claimed that there is a lack of religious candidates applying, as he sits on the acceptance committee, and said it was a shame that there is a reversal of a good trend. We would beg to disagree, since we can easily think of at least half a dozen names of excellent reporters who could do the job.

Sharir also pointed out that the Second Authority of Television and Radio ombudsman shared responsibility for oversight and dealing with complaints.

Sharir did not mention the broad lack of respect of his news program for the ombudsman’s decisions and recommendations.

A journalist who wasn’t there had made his opinion known the previous week in Ma’ariv.

According to Kalman Liebskind, the Israeli media is Israel’s biggest enemy. Channels 2 and 10, Army Radio and the IBA’s Kol Yisrael are “agenda biased,” according to Liebskind. “If the facts are not facts,” Liebskind wrote, “our entire democratic process is damaged. There’s no democracy.”

He also pointed out a self-fulfilling prophecy characteristic of the media. On the one hand, they claim that the state is suffering “because the world is watching what we do here.” But who, if not the media, is providing the world with information that is many times incorrect, imbalanced or simply wrong? The four main news diary presenters at Army Radio received special notice: “If Reno Tzror is a leftist, and Razi Barkai is a leftist, and Yael Dan is Left, and Micha Friedman is Left – is there not anyone else? Does that seem reasonable? Can current events be treated only by such broadcasters?” Israel’s public has made real progress in the past 20 years. It has become media savvy and it no longer accepts the media’s control and lack of accountability and fairness. It demands that the media reflect the Zionist ethos of the Jewish state.

The media has had no choice in recent years but to be more attentive to its public. However, its progress has been slow and sadly, colored with intellectual dishonesty. The bottom line of this week’s Yesha Council’s conference is that with hard work and good will there is good reason to believe that even our mainstream media will finally come to its senses.


June 14, 2012

Yes, A Madonna Resemblance

Posted in humor/satire tagged at 12:18 am by yisraelmedad

This Madonna is from today’s NYTimes:

and this one is of the pop-singer by the same name

There is definitely a resemblance.


June 13, 2012

MEDIA COMMENT: The ‘New Order’ at Educational TV

Posted in Media tagged at 11:58 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The ‘New Order’ at Educational TV


Opinionated anchors deal with social issues from their personal point of view, paying special attention to social, cultural topics.

The Educational TV (ETV) station is a governmental entity, funded by the Education Ministry, operating as an autonomous unit. It broadcasts a daily infotainment program, Ossim Seder Chadash (Implementing a New Order). The ETV website promotes the program as: “The headlines confuse you? You don’t find yourselves in the media sea of words and news? Ben Caspit and Gal Gabbai organize the important items for you on a daily basis. The opinionated anchors deal with social issues from their personal point of view, paying special attention to social and cultural topics within Israeli society.”

This seemingly innocuous description is rather heavily loaded. The program broadcasts interviews with many social activists.

Studying eight programs broadcast between April 10 and April 24, Elisheva Arnovitz and Ziv Maor of Israel’s Media Watch found that there is indeed a new social order – and it that of the program and its hosts.

Shmulik Zezik was one of the people appearing on the program during the review period. He was described for the viewers as “an educator and social activist.”

That he is a member of Meretz, a party political agent, was conveniently ignored.

Asma Agbariya was presented as “an activist in the Ma’an workers organization.”

It so happens that Agbariya also ran for elections on the ticket of the Arab Da’am political party.

Michal Rozin was interviewed on the issue of sexual attacks. She was described as “the executive director of a central organization that helps sexually molested women.” In fact, she is active in Meretz and was formerly a lobbyist for the New Israel’s Funds Shatil group.

There are additional examples and all seem to indicate that part of the “new order” is to hide the true identity of the people chosen to be interviewed, and so blindside the viewer and keep him confused, preventing him/her from discovering that “social order” would appear to be a code name for “left wing.”

HEADLINES ARE an important factor in creating an atmosphere and guiding the viewer. Arguably, they are even more important than the content which they presume to describe. Indeed, ETV itself relates to this aspect by noting that “in the headline industry, what we really need is moral interpretation, knowledgeable criticism and most importantly, a social aspect.

So, after 700 programs, New Order continues to do what is important – organizing the issues.”

It is then of interest to look at the headlines of the “New Order” program itself. In their research, Arnowitz and Maor presented the headlines of 32 items to two people; one who identifies with the right, the other with the left. The right-winger identified two headlines as right-wing oriented, 18 as left-wing oriented and 12 as neutral.

The left-winger identified four as serving the right wing, seven items as left-wing and 19 items as neutral.

Here are some nuggets: “The molesting colonel – the IDF carries out unwanted tasks”; “Sending Israeli youth to Poland causes emotional damage”; “The refugees in Israel have no place to return to,” and so on.

It would seem that Gabbai and Caspit and their editors take pains to paint the headlines with a distinct red color. This of course makes it easier for the viewer to finally understand the “right” order of things.

When analyzing the items themselves, one finds that approximately 30 percent were left-leaning and only 10% right-wing oriented.

Of the people interviewed 14 were left and only seven right. Quite a lopsided order.

GAL GABBAI does not hide her weltanschauung.

In February 2011, an item was headlined: “Trips to the West Bank, a love of the land or a provocation?” She then described Judea and Samaria as Palestine and had to apologize for the “error” a week later.

In an interview with Naftali Bennett, former executive director of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, she educated her confused viewers on the issues having to do with the Migron settlement: “The situation in Judea and Samaria is not a regular one. The ruler there is the army commander and every argument becomes loaded.”

This is not the first time IMW researched this program. In 2009, a similar study revealed a clear bias for preferential interviewing of Labor party representatives and that journalists from the Yediot Aharonot newspaper were “stars” as compared to other news outlets.

In the present study, it turns out that this aspect has been corrected. Only one MK was interviewed during the period – MK Zevulun Orlev from the Jewish Home party.

The journalists were much more distributed with no noticeable bias among the mainstream media. Haredi and Arab media outlets, however, were not not on the screen.

THIS SHOW is not the only infotainment program on ETV. The Media File is a weekly program that reviews the media with an emphasis on the local scene. Like the New Order, diversity and pluralism are not a major concern.

For years, B. Michael (Michael Brizon) and Yair Garboz have treated this program as their personal opinion column. Both are identified with the extreme left wing. A Garboz pearl is: “The right in Israel thinks it is patriotic but in reality it is simply racist.”

B. Michael’s wisdom is, for example: “Our trust in a Creator is the basis for all the wars that were and that will be.”

Yet ETV and the Media File program insist on giving both of them the right of expression and is not willing to provide its viewers with a modicum of balance.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has shown in the past that he can wield influence on his TV station. Their daily news roundup has been changed and it is the only major news roundup program in Israel where the right wing has two – Sarah Beck and Erel Segal – out of four presenters. Yet the message of fairness, balance and pluralism has not yet filtered through.

Educational TV in Israel is an anomaly which should be banished. It has no ethical code, no public oversight and is no longer needed. Why should the taxpayer foot the bill? Isn’t the billion shekels of tax money the IBA receives annually not enough? Indeed, Israel needs its own “New Order” in its public media.


June 7, 2012

MEDIA COMMENT: Respect for the law?

Posted in Media tagged , at 12:22 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Respect for the law?


One would hope that the attorney-general will not give in to sectorial pressure and carry out his job as mandated by the law, and not by the press.

Faced with the evidence, the attorney-general made the decision to charge the journalist with criminal action. He had been found to be in possession of stolen government documents. That is a felony, and, if convicted, he could be sent to jail. The formal charge in court was that the investigative reporter did “unlawfully receive, conceal and retain… government documents… and records, with intent to convert the said property to his own use or gain,” knowing the documents had been stolen.

Uri Blau, Israel, 2012? No, Les Whitten, 1973. And there were other cases, such as Thomas Drake, 2010, or James Risen, 2011. The United States government decided to prosecute all three for willful retention of national defense information or other security-related documents.

The first instance, of course, is not fully comparable. Whitten never went to court, his arrest was a result of a vengeful president and the documents were not security- or military- related. Another important element is that the US Constitution was amended to include a prohibition to abridge the freedom of the press.

Israel has no constitution.

Nevertheless, both cases are linked to the passionate debate over whether, how and to what extent journalistic privilege should be protected versus the issue of journalistic liability for violating the law. In this connection, the name Julian Assange could also be mentioned, or even Winston Churchill’s Regulation 2d during World War II, which severely limited the press.

The dilemma, which we also face in Israel, is: Should a journalist who acts in concert with a source who has stolen classified government documents, or who solicited the source to misappropriate classified documents, be immune from criminal prosecution? A secondary aspect of this debate in Israel is that the parameters of the debate and how it is being debated is being directed here mainly by other journalists, who understandably have quite a vested interest in the case.

What are the facts in this case? Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein decided that Haaretz’s journalist Uri Blau will be charged with unauthorized possession of classified information, but not with intending to harm state security.

According to Weinstein, “the potential acquisition [of the documents] by hostile parties could have damaged the state’s security and endangered the lives of IDF soldiers… Possessing operational documents is entirely different from collecting journalistic data for publication in good faith.”

When it became known to the authorities that Blau was in possession of secret documents he was asked to return them. He provided 50 documents. His partner in crime, Anat Kamm, who is now serving time in jail for her part in the affair, testified that there had been 1,800 documents.

The attempt to force Blau and Haaretz to return the missing documents resulted in Blau fleeing the country. Blau violated an agreement he had signed, asserts the state, and had “given the authorities the false impression that he had turned over all the classified documents.” The counter-charge by journalists (not all) and their professional associations is that all this “calls into question its [Israel’s] status as a true democracy.”

Avi Benayahu, former IDF spokesman, ex-head of Army Radio and a veteran journalist, described the unfolding of the events in an Army Radio interview last Wednesday: “We approached journalist Blau…. He was told in my name that he holds secret material, that we have no interest in his sources, we don’t need the documents but are concerned that the material is in a private home and is not secure.”

Benayahu claimed that the army had offered to come to Blau’s home and destroy the documents in his presence. Blau claimed that he had already done this. Benayahu continued: “We found out that there were further documents. We suggested trashing the computer; it could all have ended there.”

Benayahu’s conclusion to this sordid affair was: “This is a black day for the Israeli press….[This was a] false employment of the concept of freedom of the press by journalists and editors.”

Benayahu’s voice was the exception to the rule. Former Supreme Court justice and president of the Journalists Association Dalia Dorner defended Blau: “It is not right to prosecute a journalist just because he was in possession of a secret document for the sake of carrying out his job. Journalists who deal in these cases [security issues]… hold documents in their possession even though formally this is a violation of the law.”

Dorner did not deny that it would seem Blau had violated the law, she only took the position that freedom of the press is, in this case, above the law.

Dorner’s position is not unique.

The majority of the press have taken the high moral road in defending Blau. Uzi Benziman from Haaretz considered this to be a “decision tinged by revenge…. What did Uri Blau do? …he revealed problematic behavior with the IDF… the publicity angered the army… I see this as terrorizing the press.”

The attitude of IBA legal guru Moshe Negbi was also predictable: “From the point of view of the dry law, there is enough material to justify an indictment. But this is an antidemocratic paragraph which is being used undemocratically. …Prosecuting him [Blau] harms the freedom of expression.”

The outrage of journalists knew few limits. The journalists demonstrated in front of the Justice Ministry, seemingly unaware of the severity of their actions. At the same time that they commend Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for upholding the rule of law if he destroys the Givat Ulpana neighborhood, they demonstrate and defend a colleague who seemingly violated the law.

Don’t they understand that if they are allowed to violate the law in the name of a “freedom” which doesn’t have the same status as the law used to charge Blau, then everyone may be allowed to do the same? Don’t they understand that they are undermining the very foundations of the democratic state when they claim that there are some journalistic laws which one is allowed to violate in the name of democracy? One would hope that the attorney-general will not give in to their sectorial pressure and carry out his job as mandated by the law, and not by the press.