October 31, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Bad news for Israel

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 10:46 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Bad news for Israel

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 30/10/2013

It is much easier to let things be than to struggle to change them. Bureaucratic complacency has to be replaced.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel represents, according to its website, “some 480 journalists who… report from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our membership includes international journalists based in the region, as well as dozens of Israelis and Palestinians.”

The FPA makes an effort to introduce Israel to its members, especially for those who are new to this country.

On its web page, “Blogs & Links,” this professional association lists just over 30 external sites as references for its members, including four mainstream media sites (Ynetnews, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz English and Ma’an News) of which only one can be described as centrist, while two are to the Left and the one represents the Arab population which sees itself as “Palestinian.”

But there are additional resources there, including Gush Shalom (English and Arabic), Machsom Watch, Givat Haviva Jewish Arab Center for Peace, Corresponsalisraelpalestina and other extreme left wing political activist groups whose primary agenda is “anti-occupation.”

Amnesty International is included, along with but one Israeli academic institution: Ben-Gurion University.

The list does include centrist groups such as MEMRI and NGO Monitor, but the overall tone is clearly identifiable.

The FPA would presumably claim that these sites provide a partial component of life in Israel and so are important for a good journalist who wants to present the whole picture. This would be a credible position if the FPA indeed provided a balanced list.

But this is not the case. Their list does not provide adequate insight into the vast majority of Israeli public opinion. It ignores events and incidents that are usually only reported by sectorial outlets. As we know, the majority of foreign correspondents arrive with little knowledge of the complex history of Jews, their connection to the Land of Israel, the background of the Israel-Arab conflict and even less of the Hebrew language.

In too many cases, they arrive with prejudices about who is right and who is wrong, who is the victim and who is a criminal. The makeup of the websites recommended by the FPA only serves to deepen the antipathy towards us.

There is another section at the website, called “Useful Contacts.” It includes the names and contact details of official spokespersons from government ministries, office holders, the IDF and Palestinian Authority offices.

This section is somewhat more representative.

Included are IBA NEWS (English), IDF Radio, Channel 2 and Channel 10 TV as well as Israel Hayom. Israel National News (Arutz 7), though, is missing, as is the Tatzpit Photo Agency.

The FPA also provides a list of “civil rights” NGOs.

These include some of the most extreme and/or unreliable NGO’s in Israel such as Adalah, LAW, Al-Mezan Center, B’Tselem, Musaawa, Physicians for Human Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

In the “General” category, one can find only four groups that we would consider as not identified with the Left: JCPA, Israel Resource News Agency, MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch.

Another half-dozen are proactively involved in furthering a left-wing agenda, including the Israel Peace Initiative, Ir Amim and MIFTAH.

Someone at the FPA is either incompetent or perhaps worse, is using the FPA as a mouthpiece for Israel’s post-Zionist ideologues.

The narrow-mindedness of the FPA, providing only a limited picture of Israel, is not just theoretical. Too frequently, foreign journalists are not able to competently understand, analyze and report on Israel’s political, social and cultural landscape. These limitations are then magnified abroad.

Last week, The New York Times had to issue a correction for a profile piece on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The correction revolved, though, around the personality of his wife, Sara. The original article had noted that she had a “purported temper [which] has been widely faulted.” In addition it suggested that her child-rearing methods were faulty.

In a later corrected version the tone changed, to “Ms. Netanyahu is a respected child psychologist.”

Israel Hayom reported that the author of the article, Jodi Rudoren, had sent a letter of apology to Sara Netanyahu claiming that it was an “embarrassing failure of the editing process.”

Haaretz’s Barak Ravid pursued the matter and was told the apology was initiated the Times realizing that the article contained an error and that “there was no pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office.”

The Times correspondent declined to disclose to Ravid the contents of his letter of apology.

The article, however, also claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “isolated” in his Iranian sanctions policy. This was published at a time when public opinion polls indicate he is well-supported by Israel’s citizens.

Where is the Times getting its information from? Could this be indicative that some foreign correspondents are too well-bedded down with interested parties on the Israeli fringe? Do they listen only to politicians from the opposition? On October 27, Glenn Greenway, of Edward Snowden fame (or infamy), wrote to the Times’ former editor and current writer Bill Keller and expressed this view: “All journalism is a form of activism. Every journalistic choice necessarily embraces highly subjective assumptions – cultural, political or nationalistic… and serves the interests of one faction or another.”

Such a journalist, we suspect, would surrender accuracy in favor of his personal outlook. And that is done here in Israel by too many of the foreign media.

Recently, we learned of an incident in which a film crew from NBC accompanied a group of Jews inside the Temple Mount compound to report on the restrictions on prayer by Jews there. Threatened by the Wakf authorities, the police, pressured by the Muslim religious trust representatives, removed the media team from the Temple Mount.

In the past, Israel has been negatively profiled when it was perceived as having interfered with the freedom of the press. In the past the FPA itself was active in denouncing Israeli limitations.

Not having seen any report in the foreign media concerning the matter, not even in a search of NBC news itself, we directed a query to the FPA.

The response we received was: “We have asked the GPO (as we always do) to speak to the relevant authorities after a similar incident recently. Our aim is to enable foreign journalists to cover the news without impediment.”

This is a remarkably reserved and low-key reaction.

The denial of freedom of the press on the Temple Mount is not on the agenda of the foreign press or the FPA. The Wakf, an extreme, religiously obscurantist institution, was “given a pass” or, to be blunt, a double standard is being practiced against Israel in favor of its Arab enemies.

Is the bias of the FPA an immutable law of nature? We believe not. Too many government officials engaged in contacts with the international media are not doing their job.

It is much easier to let things be than to struggle to change them. Bureaucratic complacency has to be replaced. A concerted effort by the government, Zionist NGOs and the public at large can change the situation.

^

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October 23, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Hara-kiri at the IBA

Posted in Media tagged at 11:10 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Hara-kiri at the IBA

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 23/10/2013

The ongoing battle between the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem and its chairman Amir Gilat is very public.

The ongoing battle between the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem and its chairman Amir Gilat is very public.

This isn’t something new – indeed, it’s a tradition at the IBA, adhered to by almost all of their predecessors. Israel’s public broadcasting law did not clearly delineate the responsibilities of the chairman, executive board of directors and 32-member plenum of the IBA council relative to those of the professional management, headed by the director-general. Since everyone wants control, the resulting tension between the two main personalities tasked with running and overseeing the IBA is natural.

However, it would seem Gilat and Ben-Menachem have succeeded in outdoing their predecessors in their mutual animosity. In Knesset committee sessions, the two make sure to sit far apart. The popular refrain “anything you can do, I can do better,” has been replaced for them with “anything you can do, I can destroy.”

The IBA is in trouble. Gilat and Ben- Menachem, during better times, agreed on the steps needed to obtain over a half-billion shekels from the government, in an attempt to resuscitate the organization. The so-called reform agreements, signed by the employees, promised a staff cutback of 700, as well as management changes. However, as already described in previous articles, the agreement does not contain the guarantees needed to assure that the IBA will be well managed and truly a public servant.

The minister responsible for the IBA, Gilad Erdan, aware of the serious problems at the IBA, has appointed a committee to look into the “reform package” and in the meanwhile has stopped its funding.

This, instead of convincing Ben-Menachem and Gilat that in bad times, one should overcome differences and attempt to salvage what can be salvaged, has merely exacerbated their already strong differences of opinion.

So much so that Ben-Menachem has recently applied to the State Comptroller for the defense of his job. The comptroller turned him down.

THE LATEST chapter of this story is the IBA’s new ethical guidelines. As we reported in the past, the IBA ethics committee, chaired by former judge Dr. Bilha Cahane, basing itself on extreme left-wing icons such as Professor Akiva Cohen from the Communications Department of Tel Aviv University, decided that the IBA must be brought up to date.

The old ethical guidelines, known as the Nakdi document, which stated that the IBA does not have “a voice of its own,” needed to be thoroughly revised, the committee concluded.

The poor journalists, such as Keren Neubach and Oded Shachar, needed to finally be allowed to use their microphones to further their own agendas.

The decision to revamp the code was taken despite strong opposition.

In fact, previous attempts to stop this outrageous appropriation of public funds to serve the agenda of a cabal of elite journalists had been successful.

This was back when Gilat and Ben- Menachem were still “friends” and knew how to agree on substantial issues. But under the present circumstances, the IBA plenum last week decided to ratify the modernization introduced by Dr. Cahana and her committee. As reported on the Walla website, the decision was ratified with a vote of eight for and two against – that is, less than a third of the members of the IBA plenum actually voted, and only 25 percent of those were in favor. Cahana was not even present at the meeting.

The implications are clear. Consider Neubach’s October 9 interview of Amnon Levy, in which she also touched on the funeral of Rabbi Yosef.

“I can assume, accurately, I would claim, that only that part of Israel’s society which we will call one-to-seven [one being the poorest on her scale] attended the funeral. No one else. You won’t find there numbers eight, nine or 10 – unless they were Shas operatives who managed to care for themselves,” she said.

Amazing. Neubach just “knew” who attended, what their financial status was, and that the better off had only connections to thank for it.

Neubach’s patronizing attitude is considered “ethical” these days, and is to be encouraged. For this is what the new guidelines tell us: “The hosts of soft news shows are understood to be fair agents… they will take the position of devil’s advocate and will do so in a cultured and decent way.”

These guidelines replace the Nakdi doctrine of objectivity with what are termed “the rhetoric of objectivity.”

The guidelines note that “the journalists of the IBA are aware of their heavy responsibility as they are the agents who create reality for the public, and they are aware of their job as journalists in general… the committee was impressed by the IBA’s journalists’ understanding of their job as the watchdog of democracy, therefore it is obligatory to give them the necessary tools to be critical and express their opinions under certain conditions.”

PROFESSOR ASA Kasher, an expert on ethics from Tel Aviv University, had this to say on the Cahana recommendations in a letter to the IBA plenum: “The assumption that we have to redefine our ethics according to existing notions about the role of the press ignores the necessary differences between public and private media.

“ …I have never accepted the cliché that the media is the watchdog of democracy. We have no reason to assume that the media is managed by people who truly know what democracy is and what should happen within a democracy, and how to safeguard it. Too many modern-day journalists are known for their superficiality and lack of understanding of the topics they have to report on.”

We would add that it is doubly disconcerting to see a governing body make changes to media ethics when the managers themselves obviously do not understand their basic responsibilities towards the public which funds the IBA.

Passing a controversial decision with less than a third of the members of the plenum present is not exactly democratic. Deliberating on it without its having been on the agenda of the meeting in advance is a violation of the basic principles of fair government.

Not allowing those who think differently to be heard is just another way of saying dictatorship.

For the past 20 years we have argued that Israel needs a public broadcasting authority. If managed correctly, such a body provides an exceptionally important service to the public, not only in the realm of news, but also in culture, sport, education and whatnot.

But when the IBA spends money without any accounting; when its board has not the slightest inkling of what its job is or how it should be carried out; when the heads of this institution think their job is to fight each other, and that their positions exist for that purpose; the sad conclusion is that the IBA must be shut down, and the sooner the better.

^

October 16, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Parliamentary tasks

Posted in Media at 11:04 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Parliamentary tasks

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 16/10/2013

There is no alternative but to advance legislation and use the law to try and regulate the press.

Autumn is upon us and with it come the shouts and cacophony of the fall session of the Knesset. There are weighty and serious issues for our elected representatives to deal with concerning our country’s security, diplomatic standing and future. Social legislation is also on the agenda, and this includes media issues.

Just mention the term “regulation” and our media professionals become irritated, to say the least. Media oversight is not a favorite topic among journalists.

But just as we expect the authorities to make sure that restaurants are hygienic, we should also expect that the press, printed, broadcast as well as electronic, is held to minimal standards which protect the public from unethical practices.

Experience shows that voluntary codes, such as those of Israel’s Press Council, are insufficient.

There is no alternative but to advance legislation and use the law to try and regulate the press.

Media bias is undemocratic, and, when practiced by statesponsored and state-supported broadcasting networks – the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Second Authority for Television and Radio, Israel Educational Television Network and Army Radio – it is illegal.

It is in essence the implementation of extreme minority rule by a few editors and TV producers, several reporters and the odd researcher.

Bias can be implemented in many ways and it is about time our MKs applied themselves to assure that at least the media directly financed by the taxpayer is fair and pluralistic. Commercial radio and television could also benefit from more equal opportunity and pluralism.

With this in mind, we would suggest to the Knesset members, irrespective of their ideological makeup, that there are some pressing media-related issues which need their attention.

We start with the Army Radio station. Unlike the IBA and the Second Authority, there is no law regulating the operation of the station, or providing for its public supervision. The only applicable law – enacted this past year – deals with advertisement, and even this came about as a result of the intervention of the High Court of Justice. Must we wait for further guidelines from the Supreme Court? Wouldn’t it be better if the legislature took the initiative? We would suggest that advertisement be entirely abolished from Army Radio; a state-supported media organ competes unfairly with private radio stations that live only off of their advertising income. Only an extra NIS 7.5 million per year is needed to replace Army Radio’s advertising income.

Soldiers who want to serve in Army Radio should first be required to serve 18 months of regular army duty, similar to hesder yeshiva students. Then, they would be required to serve an additional three years at the station – after all, they are getting a free education in journalism.

Going through some regular duty might also make them a bit more appreciative of what the IDF is really about.

Army Radio’s goals as a public body must be defined. It should be clear that its first obligation is to serve the needs of the Israel Defense Forces. Army Radio needs a public supervisory body, which would assure transparency of its operations, as required from any other nonprofit public organization in Israel.

Israel needs a press law, as the existing ones are mostly mandatory.

The 1933 Journalism Ordinance is still in force. A 2008 bill was tabled by then-interior minister Meir Sheetrit but it never became law.

One of the important issued raised at that time was the need for newspapers to permanently delineate the owners and publishers of the paper and their holdings. This would have made it much more difficult for publishers to use their papers to implicitly or explicitly further their business interests at the expense of the quality of the paper. It is not surprising that at that time, it was the owners who vehemently opposed this.

The proposed law mandated the appointment of an ombudsman who would deal with public complaints concerning content as well as advertising. As we know, “respectable” newspapers around the world maintain a public editor or representative, so why should Israel be different? Digital Radio: if the government sincerely wishes to free up the media and bring it into the 21st century, permitting true pluralism, it should adopt a real “open skies” policy, instead of paying only lip service to the idea. The draconian demands of the Second Authority should be removed. The airwaves should be open to anyone who wants to broadcast. Modern technology enables hundreds of stations to broadcast simultaneously, why is Israel limited to a dozen or so, most of which are regional and not national? The Israel Educational Television Network: This is a publicly funded station. Its status is that of an autonomous unit within the Education Ministry. Is it really needed? We believe that Israel has too many publicly funded media stations and that this is one which should be closed down. However, if this is not possible for political reasons, then at least it, too, must be regulated and its operations made transparent.

The IBA: So much ink has been wasted on this ancient institution which refuses to be modernized. The Knesset controls its budget; it should use its power to force the IBA to serve the public instead of the present situation whereby the public is the servant of the IBA.

The scandal surrounding the rejection of the Latma satirical program while using covert tactics to authorize extreme leftwing satire is but one example of the terminal sickness of this body. A general debate on this specific issue would contribute to a public review of what the real task of public broadcasting in Israel is, and of who it serves.

Our recommendation is that the Knesset support Communication Minister Gilad Erdan in his demand that TV Channel 1 be closed down, reformed completely and only then be allowed to go back on air.

Media licensing: This is not only needed for radio stations.

The present law regulating the TV stations is so complex and demanding that in practice it prevents new players from entering the field. It must be altered significantly.

Amalgamating regulatory bodies: Israel has too many public broadcasters, but not less problematic is the proliferation of regulatory bodies. We should learn from others. An Israel Federal Communications Commission should be established, and it should be given the responsibility of overseeing all of Israel’s broadcasters. The regulations should be limited to the bare essentials and enforced without leniency.

Website monitoring: No, we are not suggesting regulating private websites, quite the contrary.

The web is mostly a breath of fresh air. But too many of the publicly supported media franchises use their websites without care for media ethics. This should be and can be regulated.

We have touched upon a number of topics, but there are many more, such as the question whether Israel’s Press Council should be mandated by law, the revision of the law governing rating of programs with respect to violence, sex and drugs. The predecessors of this Knesset almost always gave in to media demands, motivated by self-preservation. Will the present Knesset outdo itself and provide the public with true social media legislation?

^

October 14, 2013

מי יעלה להר הבית?

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:13 pm by yisraelmedad

מי יעלה להר הבית?.

October 11, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Must journalists respect the law?

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:43 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Must journalists respect the law?

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 09/10/2013

 

 
The reporter’s instinct that someone must be guilty pushes her or him to try and prove the culprit’s offenses.
 

In the 1998 movie film Deep Impact, the US treasury secretary, played by James Cromwell, attempts to persuade a reporter to refrain from investigating a story. He turns to her and says: “Look, I know you’re just a reporter, but you used to be a person, right?” Investigative reporting presents ethical and moral challenges. The reporter’s instinct that someone must be guilty pushes her or him to try and prove the culprit’s offenses.

Material is typically fed to the reporter through sources and leaks and is often anonymous. The reporter must judge whether the information is reliable or not, and even if convinced that a crime took place, where are the limits? Is the journalist above the law? In 2009, in the United States, State Department adviser Stephen Kim allegedly revealed information concerning North Korea to Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen.

Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department were then tracked by the FBI, which traced the timing of his calls, and obtained a search warrant to read his emails. US law makes it a criminal act to publish classified information revealing government cryptography or communications intelligence.

Did Rosen do the right thing? He felt compelled to fulfill his professional calling; do we praise him for this? Is he a role model or a criminal? Another case is that of former UK News of the World’s Dan Evans. He was charged last month with conspiring to intercept communications (a.k.a. phone hacking) of well-known people. The phone hacking scandal of two years ago resulted in some 60 journalists arrested with 27 having been charged and 12 cleared. Was Evans a crusader, seeking information and upholding the public’s right to know, or was he a criminal? Israel has its own such scandals.

The journalists involved often justify their actions by charging that their investigative abilities are hampered by those “evil forces of fascism who have taken over our democracy.”

They appeal to the court of public opinion to try and evade conviction for their infractions.

A most recent case is that of Haaretz’s Uri Blau and Shai Grinberg.

Blau became notorious through the Anat Kam affair. He received classified IDF information which was taken from the army without authorization by soldier Anat Kam. Kam, who is not a reporter, was convicted for espionage and providing confidential information without authorization.

She was sent to jail.

Blau, in July 2012, accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to four months of community service. But it would seem Blau had no remorse, believing that the message society was giving him was that indeed the journalist should at times take the law into his own hands, which leads us directly to a story that is now unfolding.

BLAU AND his investigator Shai Grinberg were indicted two weeks ago for trespassing. According to police, they illegally entered a religious hostel for young girls in distress.

This story has its beginnings in a lengthy May 27, 2011, report by the due about what they described as “the right-wing organization Lehava, noted for its vehement anti-assimilation views… many of its members are disciples of Meir Kanhane. Yet Hemla [Mercy], a group closely linked to Lehava, receives state funding for its rehabilitation work with Jewish women.” Blau and Grinberg claim that “the heads of the association [Hemla] are outright Kahanists.”

The topic of their investigation was Hemla’s activities in trying to rehabilitate Jewish girls who were romantically involved with Arabs. They quoted the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s legal commentator Moshe Negbi, who said, “There’s no question that opposition to assimilation is a legitimate religious and even Zionist viewpoint, in the context of freedom of expression. But if you carry it out by means of incitement to racism, by violent means or threats, then it crosses the criminal line.”

The very long article in fact does not contain a shred of evidence linking the Hemla organization to any illegal activity, incitement and whatnot.

Blau was frustrated because he was not allowed into the hostel, was not able to interview the inmates and also stonewalled by the authorities.

But there was a more sinister reason for Blau’s frustration. According to the police, Blau and Grinberg entered the Hemla hostel illegally and filmed various rooms (which were empty). They did not know that Hemla’s security cameras had recorded their activities. In a taped telephone interview shortly after the break-in, Grinberg claimed they did not move around in the building but just entered to see if anyone was there and then immediately exited.

The video tape was posted on the Internet, and it is obvious she was lying.

Blau and Grinberg will probably claim in their defense that their activities are the norm of “good” investigative journalism in Israel. In 2006, then-general Elazar Stern leaked data from the personal file of soldier Hanan’el Dayan to then-journalist Yair Lapid. Dayan, in protest against the expulsion from Gaza, refused to shake hands with the IDF’s commanding officer Dan Halutz during the ceremony for outstanding soldiers at the President’s Residence, raising Stern’s wrath.

Dayan went to court and Stern was fined NIS 31,500. The journalist, Lapid, went scot-free. He is today our finance minister, while Stern is a Knesset Member belonging to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party.

In June 2006, Israel Broadcasting Authority journalist Benny Lis illegally opened the door of the Adler family’s private residence in Chavat Maon and filmed inside. This footage was then broadcast in a news report on the IBA’s Channel 1 TV. We complained to the IBA at that time, noting the illegality of Lis’s actions. The IBA defended Lis’s actions. We filed a complaint with police but Lis was not even called in for investigation.

Last July, Channel 10 reporter Doron Herman disguised himself as a religious soldier and entered the Mea She’arim quarter of Jerusalem in an attempt to provoke a violent response from the local residents.

It is illegal in Israel to disguise oneself as a soldier.

Herman was not fishing for information like Blau and Grinberg, he was trying to provoke a potentially violent scene in an attempt to get a “good” story. However, the executive director of Channel 10, Golan Yochpaz, had no regrets. In his response letter, he stated: “Part of the journalistic spirit of our society is the attempt to evaluate and expose issues, failures and injustices. At times, to expose issues of public interest, one must also use disguise.”

The head of the Second Authority for TV and Radio, Dr. Ilan Avisar, accepted Yochpaz’s defense. The journalist, Herman, got off scot-free.

Evidently, the norm in Israel is that journalists are allowed to break the law. Blau’s real failure is not that he broke the law, but that in doing so he was not able to expose anything wrong at the Hemla organization.

Had he succeeded, he might even have been elected to the honor roll of the Ometz organization or the Movement for Quality Government.

^

October 3, 2013

MEDIA COMMENT: Is it a journalist’s role to educate?

Posted in Media at 12:07 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Is it a journalist’s role to educate?

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 02/10/2013

Lynn Schofield-Clark of the University of Denver addresses the theme of “cultivating the media activist.”

In the current issue of Journalism, an academic periodical, Lynn Schofield-Clark of the University of Denver addresses the theme of “cultivating the media activist.” She notes that the challenge of educating a new generation of journalists involves more than issues such as public service, impartiality and the ideal that journalism should be autonomous. Nowadays, she argues, one must also face topics such as multiculturalism and new media with all their implications.

She proposes that media activism, public journalism, and critical service learning may contribute to a new framework of a journalistic worldview, one that will lead to criticizing “existing arrangements of power and to develop a globally sensitive perspective… [to] reflect a deep appreciation for… the diverse communities they serve.”

That model of the “educated journalist” is implicit in a recent report from The Atlantic of a new trend of mainstream media journalists joining the Obama administration. The most recent is Time managing editor Rick Stengel, who is now employed by the State Department.

There are, at present, at least 15 former journalists in the American government.

In 2009, The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe counted 10.

The media outlets from which the journalists came include CBS, ABC, CNN, Time, The Washington Post, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.

This crossing of the lines is not unfamiliar to us in Israel.

Local journalists have joined the government as press secretaries, media liaisons and even more so as elected Knesset members and ministers. The blurring between journalist, politician and public servant presents the media consumer with a multi-faceted problem.

Once a journalist becomes more concerned with influencing society, government or history than with the difficult task of reporting the news as factually as possible, there is the imminent danger of the profession becoming a tool for furthering political/public goals instead of propagating knowledge.

Jonathan Bernstein illustrates this point in a media criticism column at the liberal/Left Salon website. . He writes, “if you were expecting the press to give you the full story on Syria, you [were] left disappointed. Here are five things that (most of) the press got totally wrong….”

He sums up so: “The press… utterly failed to find, or at least to consistently use, a vocabulary for what was on the table…. A vocabulary is really needed to make [matters] clear.” He knows that the media in America overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama due to their identification with his policies, as many polls have proven.

If a journalist begins to view him/herself as part of the story, or worse, part of the future story, then credibility, objectivity and professional ethics become irrelevant. It makes no difference if the failures are due to left-wing, right-wing, liberal or conservative bias. The result is fact-free journalism; emotive presentations and rhetoric rather than reality. It leads to news distortion highlighting partisan political viewpoints.

Stephen Ward, of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, wrote in August that a new media ethics is evolving. It questions the principle of impartiality, replacing it with only a need for “clarification” of meanings.

The new values include “transparency over objectivity; or, a preference for the unfiltered sharing of information over a filtered verification of ‘the facts.’” He further suggests that “we need to reinvent media ethics.”

WHAT WE are witnessing here is an attempt to subvert journalism.

The result? People who require real information so as to know who to vote for, where to go for vacations, what is happening in their school system, etc., can no longer trust their news sources. Professional journalism today too often implies serving the powerful and the rich.

Someone with a different approach is Simon Houpt of Toronto’s Globe and Mail. He thinks, as he stated in a September 19 interview, that he’s “bound by certain ethical precepts I try to live my life by…

it’s more instructive to think of [journalism as] a trade rather than a profession… building up a superstructure of journalism ethics is part of a process of trying to exclude the hoi polloi from the process of reporting and commenting on the news.”

Hypocrisy among journalists is rampant. Let’s consider Alaska.

Less than two weeks ago, a former legislator was fined $18,000 for breaking state ethics rules. Republican Alan Dick double-charged travel expenses (remind you of any former Israeli prime minister?).

His “lack of attention to detail,” the Legislative Ethics Committee found, was “unacceptable” for a public official.

When was the last time a journalist had to face punishment – financial or otherwise – for similar infractions? To be sure, it has happened in Israel. Natan Zehavi, who just this week compared Israel’s chief rabbis to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, was forced to apologize for his antics (sort of) in a live broadcast in February 2012. In May 2010, Gabi Gazit, who had referred to ultra-Orthodox Jews as “leeches” and “worms” noted afterward that he was referring only to the extremists.

But this is not the norm.

Zehavi, Gazit and their ilk are themselves extremists, dancing on the fine line between legitimate criticism and vulgarity.

When they cross it too far, they are forced to “sort of” apologize. Journalists deride and highlight actual foibles of public personalities. Events that may have never happened become at times, their center of attention. Too many journalists refuse to be bound by any meaningful code of ethics.

It is mainly due to the pressures brought by media review groups in Israel that the media branja, (Hebrew jargon for “clique”) has seemingly moderated its opposition to being held accountable to the regulations and codes they are legally bound to adhere to.

To defend themselves, they and other like-minded journalists seek to redefine their profession’s obligations.

For example, claiming that “balance” supposedly cannot be achieved, they at best limit themselves to try and assure “fairness.” While every politician is subject to the laws and decisions of the activist Supreme Court, journalists refuse to be reined in by same.

The Supreme Court almost always absolves journalists from of responsibility in any case, in the name of freedom of expression.

WE, THE media consumers, are facing a three-pronged offensive on media ethics. In the first place, it is asserted that no outside regulator can judge the journalists. Media ethics must not discommode the journalist nor intrude into his life and work. Only the journalists can decide how to respond to criticism, and surely any form of actual punishment is unacceptable.

Lastly, they claim for themselves the right to reinterpret ethics so as to be permitted to “educate” and “guide” the public.

This is not an ethical relationship.

The profession will regain the public’s confidence only when it replaces subjectivism with proper news reporting.

^