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July 27, 2005

Deep Analysis on Shallow Coverage

"The [Israeli] media have usually been preoccupied with the petty, marginal, and sensationalist aspects of the [disengagement] initiative, systematically failing to examine the important issues it raises or to ask the difficult questions," writes Tamar Guttman, in a report published by the Israel Democracy Institute entitled "Discourse on Disengagement: Sensationalism in the Mainstream Press."

What are the major problems, as Guttman sees them?

1) Agitation: The media sensationalizes extremist comments by right-wing leaders:

In their passionate quest for yet another "shocking" statement and "appalling" quote, the journalists exaggerate and misrepresent reality.

For example, Channel Two and Ha'aretz repeatedly identify extreme right-winger Yosef Dayan as a rabbi, though he is not. Channel Two also sensationalized a report on a "training camp" run by the Kach movement for children in Gush Katif. But Ben Caspit of Ma'arive wrote that "the entire event was staged . . . it was all timed and designed to create good footage (with the knowledge of the media, according to security sources), while residents themselves disassociate themselves from the whole story. . . "

2) Compensation:

Media coverage of the disengagement plan’s financial aspects was equally biased and histrionic, particularly on the subject of compensation for evacuated settlers. . . . The settlers are depicted as a bunch of opportunistic gold-diggers ready to sell their principles for a hefty sum. . . it is important to examine the facts: according to the disengagement authority, as of the beginning of October, only one hundred of the 1,700 families facing evacuation had responded and expressed initial interest in voluntary resettlement in return for the downpayment.

3) Apocalypse Now:

As in the case of the period of tension preceding the last Gulf War, once again the media is fanning the flames of tension and nervous anticipation among the general public through catastrophic and pessimistic forecasts. As everyone knows, fear sells. Faced with the desire to secure high ratings, the media have painted the first stages of the disengagement plan in ominous and threatening colors. Emotive expressions such as "civil war," "preparations for rebellion," "refusing orders," and "intensified terror" are featured prominently at every opportunity in large headlines on the lead pages. . . Calmer messages, such as the opinion of various public figures and security sources that most of the settlers will not use violence in opposing evacuation, are relegated to the inner pages or the end of newscasts.

With reports like these, it's no wonder that Israeli journalists flunk the Israeli media.

Posted by TS at July 27, 2005 01:24 PM


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