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March 21, 2006

Newsworthiness Disagreements: Washington Times vs. Washington Post

During the first two weeks of March, the Washington Post and Washington Times disagreed repeatedly about the news value of subjects dealing with Israel, Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

Newspapers can have legitimate reasons for not treating the same news topics similarly, including varying staff size, differing page counts and editors’ subjective judgments about individual stories. Nevertheless, CAMERA has criticized the Post in the past for focusing excessively on the Palestinian Arabs in Middle East news, and subordinating Israelis (and news about them) as bit players in a drama about the Palestinians.

The difference between Washington Times and Washington Post coverage in early March may stem from continuation of this misplaced focus.

For example:

On March 1, the Washington Times published two front-page articles of Jewish interest: “London mayor back at work after barb,” about Mayor Ken Livingston continuing to work pending appeal of a four-week suspension for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard; and “Americans and Jews villains in blockbuster,” about the Turkish film, Valley of the Wolves, which portrays “crazed American GI’s massacring innocent wedding guests” and “a Jewish surgeon removing organs from Iraqi prisoners ...”

The March 1 Washington Post carried a news brief about Livingston and did not mention the controversy over Valley of the Wolves.

On March 2, both newspapers printed front-page articles related to the controversy over the proposed take-over of operations at six major U.S. ports by a company based in the United Arab Emirates. The Washington Times article was headlined “U.S. urges UAE to end its boycott of Israel” and focused on alleged illegal compliance of U.S.-owned firms with the Arab economic boycott of Israel. The Washington Post’s report was headlined “U.S. Reviewing 2nd Dubai firm” and examined plans of a UAE company to acquire plants making components for U.S. military aircraft and tanks and an Israeli firm’s pending take-over of a U.S. software and security firm that does business with the Pentagon.

On March 3, the Times placed a dispatch about suspected Al Qaeda presence in Palestinian territories on page one. The Post ran the item as a brief.

On March 4, both papers published accounts of the visit to Russia by a delegation of Hamas leaders on inside pages — but the Times also printed a page one photo teasing to the article inside.

Also on March 4, both dailies reported on three Israelis setting off firecrackers in the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which nearly started a riot. The Times carried an article headlined “Christian shrine hit by Israeli intruders” on an inside page, the Post ran a brief.

On March 6, the Times and the Post covered the assertion by Avi Dichter, former head of the Shin Bet (Israel’s equivalent of the FBI) and a leading Kadima Party candidate in the March 28 elections, that Israel must leave more West Bank settlements and unilaterally determine its own borders. The Times article ran on page one, The Post’s on an inside page.

On March 8, the Times published an article headlined “Israeli charged in drug importing,” which noted “extraordinary joint efforts of the United States and Israeli authorities” in breaking up “a sophisticated drug-trafficking network ....” The Post did not cover the story.

And on March 13, the Times led its “World” news section with a dispatch headlined “Settler-movement founder backs Olmert; Calls some of his peers outside mainstream.” The Post did not cover Rabbi Yoel Ben Nun’s endorsement of Olmert’s Kadima Party.

Too often The Washington Post minimizes coverage of news of Jewish interest. In particular, it provides insufficient coverage of Israelis and Israel as newsworthy in their own right, not primarily as adjuncts to the Palestinian Arabs’ largely self-created melodrama. When it follows this pattern, as it did in early March, it does not serve its readers well.

– Kate Naseef, CAMERA Washington research intern; Eric Rozenman, Washington director.

Posted by ER at March 21, 2006 09:18 AM

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