Arab and Jewish journalists are often suspected of bias when reporting on the Middle East. The Gaza/Israel conflict has thrown a piercing spotlight on this - every word matters, especially when amplified by social media.
Reporters are meant to be dispassionate, neutral broadcasters of fact. No cultural allegiances allowed. Park messy emotion and personal point of view; that’s for the intelligent viewer to extract, right? Who are we kidding! Every newspaper, network and blog has its trademark slant. And each attracts writers (and audiences) who echo that perspective.
But what happens when reporters go rogue?
Is it appropriate for a journalist in trying circumstances to plead their point of view? Is it within professional boundaries to take the next step and express sympathy or display angst? Is reporter reaction part of the story?
War by nature is inhumane. Governments aim to further dehumanize its impact by rejecting their own complicity in human fallout and assigning guilt to the dead. It’s a “left brain” affair - logical, factual, free from sloppy sentiment. But, increasingly, war coverage is veering off neutral - core stories are being served up along with personal reactions and perspectives.
Presenters who stick to the corporate slant, or stay with their tribal affinity, see their viewpoints protected. Those that cross lines risk being tagged as “biased” towards their roots, or conversely are labelled as turncoat Muslims or self-hating Jews. In one case, a rogue reporter was shipped off to Russia!
Stories become about story delivery rather than content. Forget what’s reported, who are you to report it? And how dare you report it that way? Who asked for your opinion? And why are you neglecting the atrocities ongoing in Syria and Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria?
American journalist and author Thomas Friedman - after a career dedicated to Middle East reporting - once said that if a journalist is doing their job well, they’ll receive equal criticism from both sides on their reporting. We haven’t identified anyone covering this conflict that meets that standard, but there’s a growing press corps who insist on telling things “their way”.