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An interesting discussion in class today on, what one classmate called, the ‘relative truth’ of journalistic coverage of the Israeli attacks on Gaza was whittled away by other classmates to a process that is developed more fully in the 24-hour news cycle, and by another as a series of lenses: as time goes on, the story (and the truth) become more clear. 

So it was timely that I stumbled across this blog by Alicia C. Shepard, NPR Ombudsman. In it, Shepard describes the process by which NPR reporters and anchors attempt (rather well) unbiased, balanced reporting, with the case study being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

[Listener’s opinions on NPR’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] becomes personal. But covering the news isn’t personal. It’s about gathering the facts and reporting what is happening fairly and in context without bias.

 

Bernat Armangue, AP. From NPR.org.

Bernat Armangue, AP. From NPR.org.

 

There is virtually no other story that NPR covers that stimulates more complaints, more concern, more frustration or more emotion than the Israeli-Arab conflict. Not only are some listeners quick to claim that NPR is sympathetic to one side or the other but many demand that a complete history of the conflict be included in each story.

It gives an interesting angle onto some perhaps plainly obvious realities of a journalists’ profession:

a), not everyone who reads/listens/watches you is going to agree with you (indeed, they may reject your factual, well-researched story simply because of the subject matter);
b), the reader/listener/viewer may not have digested all the coverage from your particular outlet on this topic, and this may find the entire story not told in your 3 minute or 8 inch piece;
and c), they may simply want someone to agree with them, not give a balanced review that perhaps shows the flaws of their own position.

The last one is evident from the spectacular popularity of media pundits who subscribe to a particular ideology, with their shows or columns following suit. Some people  just really want journalists to agree with them.  

Especially when faced with this particular conflict- the millennia of  history, the impact of religion, the political landscape, the “facts on the ground,” it is important for journalists to take pause, a breath, and realize that each story we submit will not become the final compendia on the topic, but rather is a step towards each journalist’s goal: informing and educating the public.