Thursday, May 20, 2010

About media, with Israeli journalists

I just attended a couple of minutes ago a very interesting conversation on ShalomLife about media in and about Israel. Part of the conversation: David Horowitz, editor-in-chief Jerusalem Post, Arad Nir, from Channel 2 News and Marcus Sheff, executive director, The Israeli Project. Moderator: Leah Stern, IDC Herzliya faculty member.

The focus was more on the way in which the foreign media is reflecting - very often in a biased and stereotypical way - the situation from Israel, preponderently interested in the conflictual aspects, with a black (Israel)-and-white (Palestinians) perspective. But, as well aspects related of the challenges of the Israli journalists, the local answer from the authorities from the point of view of the "hasbara"/efforts of public diplomacy or the influence of social media on traditional ways of reporting, with a special emphasis on the current evolution. A moderate discussion with moderate accents, but with lots of contextual information.

One is related to the problems the Israeli journalists (Arad Nir): restricted access to events from the Arab world (meetings of the Arab League, for example), ignored questions addressed to various officials (as the Iranian ones), ignored requests for interviews (he mentioned the case of El-Baradei). How can you report accurately when the other side is refusing any kind of dialogue? And, in addition, without a personal contact with other journalists, including from the Arab world, it is very hard to advance in creating professional bridges , as a first step to a better understanding.

Another issue related to the lack of knowledge of the local context, given equally the lack of access to the local sources, because of the language. What Jerusalem Post did was to offer a window to a wider audience getting various hints about the context. It is a step ahead, needed to be supported by other media tools as well. From the point of view of the current state-of-arts of the Israeli authorities, the participants outlined the failure to give the appropriate soundsbytes to change an ovewhelming negative image. Lack of resources, interest, other priorities. Hence, the predominant focus on the conflict, as a "good" versus "bad guys" positioning.

More is to be said, more is to be done.

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