A Conversation with ‘Honest Reporting’

Tags: Israel, PR, Overseas, Advocacy, Federation

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Media watchdog urges vigilance regarding news of Israel

Article Reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

By Jacqueline Mitchell

Gary Kenzer, national North American executive director of Honest Reporting, is urging supporters of Israel to become effective advocates who know how to spot biased news. Honest Reporting monitors news for bias and inaccuracy in the coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“If you sit back and do nothing, it’s actually criminal,” Kenzer said during an Aug. 21 talk, “Internet, Media Bias and Advocacy for Israel,” at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood.

Kenzer asked how many people in the room accessed their news in a printed newspaper, and only a handful of more than 30 attendees raised their hands.

“You tend to get your news off the Internet unless it’s Shabbat,” he said. “I know, because I’m the same way too. So that speaks very largely about how we get our news … everybody today has this disease called ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). And that’s largely because we want the news and the news and the news, and oh, there’s something else, and something else.”

The Internet has changed the way people perceive news, Kenzer said, because the immediacy and brevity of content on the web hinders the reader’s ability to read and understand carefully and completely. He also pointed out that just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t mean it is true.

Kenzer illustrated the importance of photographs and demonstrated circumstances in which they can be misleading because of calculated angles or inaccurate captions. He showed examples of photos that inaccurately depicted Israeli soldiers as violent due to cropping and improper context.

“Any picture that you look at in a paper, I would consider as guilty until proven innocent,” he said. “Especially if it involves Israel, because those are taken way out of context.”

Kenzer condemned many news outlets for their portrayal of Israel, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Al Jazeera and Haaretz, and showed examples of editorial cartoons that portrayed Israel in a violent light.

“The Washington Post – we call it the Washington Compost – is probably one of the most painful papers we work with, next to the New York Times,” Kenzer said.

One journalist he did laud for balanced reporting: Anderson Cooper of CNN, who he said was “the best reporter we work with in Jerusalem.” “Israel should be treated exactly the same as any country in the world expects to be, which is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around,” said Kenzer. “We tell people, quite frankly, that Israel is not a perfect country. But being perfect is not a prerequisite of being treated fairly at the hands of the international media.”

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