Which is more credible?

Newsweek, which was to have celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013 has announced it will cease publication at the end of 2012 and will transition to an all digital product called Newsweek Global.

The digital vs. printed news media debate is not new. In September 2006 Time magazine published an article titled “Do Newspapers Have a Future?” in which Michael Kinsley opined “It seems hopeless. How can the newspaper industry survive the Internet?”

On October 12 2012, Haaretz columnist and member of Haaretz’s editorial board Gideon Levy published an article titled “In a Web of lies, the newspaper must live” in which he lambasted the digital media.

Internet democracy” he wrote ” is a danger to the public. At the moment, there is no future for serious and responsible journalism without a printed newspaper”.. “..if all we are left with is the digital version it will mean an end to journalism that conducts itself according to professional standards..
This is an important lesson for those who worship everything digital and want to bury the print newspaper: Internet democracy is a danger to the public. At the moment, there is no future for serious and responsible journalism without a printed newspaper. Internet may be the present and it may be the future, but if all we are left with is the digital version it will mean an end to journalism that conducts itself according to professional standards. It will be the end to investigative reports, to a hierarchy, an end to journalism as persuasive factor and foundation stone of democracy”.

 

Levy was motivated by his shock on reading an online story alleging that his late father of blessed memory had collaborated with the Nazis. While one empathizes completely with his anguish on reading the calumny about his father, his confidence in the superior integrity of printed over digital media is misplaced.  His statement that no newspaper in Israel would have printed an item like that without first investigating is very sadly untrue as proven by the number of unsubstantiated damaging articles that are regularly published in his own newspaper, Haaretz, many of them authored by Levy himself.

Haaretz’s slanders against Israelis like the  headline “Jews are capable of acting like neo-Nazis”  (Meron Rappaport Sep.16, 2007)  are eagerly reproduced in anti-Israeli media around the world and it is a matter of pride that these critical writings are unfettered in Israel; unmistakable proof of our open society and freedom of expression that is lacking in all our neighboring countries and even in many major countries like China and Pakistan.

Ignoring every editor’s elementary obligation to check facts, on May 18, 2012 Haaretz published a prominent headline “Kfar Sava hospital bans teaching staff from speaking Arabic”.  A simple phone call or visit would have revealed that contrary to the blatantly misleading and damaging headline, Arabic is freely spoken in the hospital.

 In response to a letter I wrote to Haartez the following inconspicuous correction was published  

The headline was amended to “Parents claim that Kfar Sava hospital bans teaching staff from speaking in Arabic followed immediately by the continued false statement that Arab teachers and students have been forbidden to speak to each other in Arabic and completely omitting the important fact that the complaint by a parent had been investigated and found to be unfounded.

The damage done by Haaretz is irreparable, as the original irresponsible headline continues to reverberate around the world adding to the mistaken negative perceptions of Israel. A Google search for “Kfar Sava hospital bans Arabic” produces over 400,000 results

To provide some perspective, this is wha  David Frankfurter wrote to Haaretz

The “facts” in this article run contrary to my own observations, when my son was recently hospitalized at the same Meir Medical Centerin Kfar Sava. We went to the hospital’s education department to work on his mathematics homework. We are obviously Jewish – our skullcaps being a giveaway. A charming young Muslim teacher (her hijab also being a giveaway ) told us, in perfect Hebrew, about the facility and offered to assist my son with his homework. When I declined – wanting to spend some father-son time helping him myself – she was disappointed, but understanding and returned a couple of times to make sure that I was doing an adequate job.

Meanwhile she turned her attention to a young Arab child and her parent, speaking to them in Arabic, and to a third family whom she addressed in reasonable English. She conversed with the patients and with the other staff, including her supervisor, in whatever language was most appropriate for the situation, with no self-consciousness on the part of anyone in the room.

This real coexistence was an oasis of calm for all of us who were somewhat stressed by the fact that our children were unwell. Credit goes to everyone who are responsible for that facility: the Ministry of Education, the hospital and the dedicated staff of its education department.

In a September 23 2010 interview published in Huffington Post Levy made the defamatory accusation that Yitzhak Rabin’s peace agreement with Arafat was a scam (that is a swindle or fraudulent deal). One may well ask how he justifies saying to the interviewer without a shred of evidence, that Netanyahu like the supposedly more left-wing alternatives, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni — always opposed real peace talks, and even privately bragged about destroying the Oslo process?

On November 12, 2006 Levy published an article titled “No one is guilty in Israel” in which he RECKLESSLY alleged that nineteen inhabitants of Beit Hanun were killed with MALICE AFORETHOUGHT and that it takes considerable gall and cynicism to dare to claim that the IDF didn’t intend to kill them. On the contrary, it takes gross arrogance and prejudiced animus to reject with no basis at all, the statement by GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant  that there was a problem with the targeting apparatus. Is Levy such an expert in artillery that he knows with certainty that an error in the equipment did not result in a shell landing unintentionally in the wrong place?

In a letter I wrote to Levy about this article I referred to Steve Linde’s oped in  which he wrote

Can you imagine how terrible the artillery troops who fired the shells at Beit Hanun yesterday must be feeling now? After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner’s nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children.

One must also ask how Haaretz justifies the following misleading and incendiary headline and article that continues to be shown on  its web site today (October 19), despite the fact that responsible journalists had published that the man responsible for the film is not an Israeli as early as September 12?  Surely in the interests of journalistic integrity this article should carry a prominent correction as required by article 7 of the Israeli Press council Rules of Professional Ethics of Journalism which states. “Substantive mistakes, omissions or inaccuracies in the publication of facts must be corrected speedily, fairly and with the appropriate emphasis relative to the original publication. In addition, in suitable cases, an apology shall also be published”.

 

More egregiously Haaretz has published cartoons that are not only distasteful but seriously hate-mongering. Examples are not reproduced here because of copyright restrictions, but one egregious example irresponsibly propagates the blood libel that has led to massacres and pogroms, alleging that Jews use Christian blood to make matzos. The cartoon is headed “Matzot for Passover with Prof, Toaff” and depicts a Jew making matzo with a large knife on the table while his wife says “here’s the bambino” as she hands him a child for slaughter so that his blood can be used in the matzo.

The cartoon appeared when Professor Toaff published a book in which he suggested the possibility (which he subsequently withdrew) that in the Middle Ages, Ashkenazi Jews may have actually practiced ritual murder.

In this period of USA election fever it is educational to read a flashback to the 2008 election. On October 24, 2008 ABC News published an article by Michael S. Malone titled “Media credibility” in which he wrote that the sheer bias in the print and television coverage of the 2008 election campaign was not just bewildering, but appalling.

Unfortunately it is evident that mainstream media are no more credible than internet media. Each news provider, whether print, digital, TV or radio must be judged on its merits. While there is no such thing as absolute objectivity in reporting, ethical journalism should be judged by the extent to which it approaches that ideal. Journalists and editors can do this only by acknowledging their prejudices to themselves, never presenting their opinions as facts and never omitting relevant information that contradicts the angle they would like to present

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