Top dog wants to stop barking

Most readers and writers of blogs on the Times of Israel need little convincing that the international media is biased against Israel. The debate is whether this bias is institutional or simply the pressure of a world where news is with us 24 hours a day and as such mistakes are inevitable.

As a former journalist I believe genuine low level mistakes have increased out of all recognition since my hey day in Fleet Street in the 1980’s. Sadly this is something supporters of Israel can derive little comfort from. If Jews are News Israel is” hold the front page.” But mistakes concerning the coverage of Israel are usually of the major not mundane variety and I know from my experience they are mostly avoidable and not the result of ever shorter and more deadlines.

There are of course noble  exceptions and who could fail to admire the reporter, bullet proof jacket if he is lucky, crouched behind a boulder under a hail of gun fire microphone in hand. It seems a miracle to me he can mumble anything let alone string sentences together and make sense of a given situation. Though dramatic the occasions where the reporter is genuinely ad libbing are not the majority but the few. It does not usually happen like that. Its normal for a reporter to put a script together and do several takes before facing the camera. Only when word perfect do we hear the words ” lights on action.” This is true whether working live or recorded. Any queries about accuracy are  normally sorted out before deadline time by the producer who is never far away. But where Israel is concerned it seems  more important to be in line with the latest half truths, which are standard faire, then the whole truth.

With Israel in general and Ariel Sharon in particular the attention to detail is more often than not left on the cutting floor. Time wise truths are trotted out even when proven lies. Why you might ask should the above statement be worth an article at this juncture when lies about Israel  have been in circulation almost since the birth of the modern State.

Well confidentially I have to tell you  I was named top dog of the week  by the Honest Reporting group for spotting a lie on CNN concerning the life of Sharon. I am a cat man my self but if I had to pick a dog out to top a column telling of my valour this one looked positively handsome. Though on second thoughts it might have been a bitch. Anyway I digress. What made me top dog or dog of the week? Read on.

CNN are the Royal Society of Television news channel of the year. But when it comes to Israel its laser beam vision continues to be poorly aimed and inaccurate. On the day of Sharon’s funeral CNN reporter Mohammed Jamjoom was interviewed in Beirut by the anchor in Hong Kong and naturally the conversation came round to the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by the Christian Phalange Militia. Only it didn’t. This was Sharon’s doing and for the uninitiated watching the bodies lying grotesquely in pools of blood  these victims were Sharon’s victims, and those of his butchering Israeli troops. Jamjoom went on to intimate this was why the Palestinians hated the ex general and former Prime Minister. Then the camera cut to a Palestinian who felt comforted by the fact that Sharon was now being punished by god. I kept waiting for either Jamjoom or the anchor to give the explanation that the then Israeli defence minister had ordered Christian Phalange troops into the camps to flush the Palestinian fighters out and not to slaughter women and children. But the explanation never came.

Instead it gave a better sense of drama to leave the words bulldozer and butcher hanging in the air.

The problem is that most supporters of Israel are so used to seeing the country as the eternal whipping boys that their eyes glaze over and they fail to protest or try and right wrongs. Me included. Perhaps the chance to be “Top Dog of the Week” might spur a few people on. I pick out  an item that needs correcting probably every day. However I do not want to be the eternal top dog. Perhaps if enough people complained the penny might drop in some quarters of the press. If that happened we certainly would not be barking up the wrong tree.

About the Author
Adrian Needlestone quit sixth form at 17 to follow his dream to become a journalist. So desperate was he that he accepted a wage of £6 a week for six days work as an office boy at what was then London largest independent news agency, The Fleet Street News Agency. After making tea and buying sandwiches for six months he was given the opportunity to cut his working week down by one day and cover the East London Crown courts in those days known as Quarter sessions Courts. The bread and butter work was the local paper contracts the agency held with the occasional national story being cream on the top. During 18 months covering the courts stories in the nationals became the norm rather than the exception and he was quickly switched back to the main office in Clerkenwell to work with the news team. At the age of 21 came his first big break when Murdoch took over the Sun newspaper and promptly hired the agency’s news editor and most of the senior staff. In a leap of faith the agency head promoted him to news editor but confided many years later that it was the “cheap” option which if he sank that was life and if he swam so much the better. Seven years later after working regular evenings on the Mirror and the Mail he joined the Evening standard on the news picture desk. From there he moved on to the National Enquirer in America, the News of the World, BBC national radio and ran the news section of the Derek Jameson TV magazine programme on Sky. After 25 years in the business he decided to slow down and turn his hand to business but he never enjoyed the success in that world to match his career in Fleet street. Semi retired he has now taken to the internet and is writing a blog as well as simultaneously trying to write three books, one about his time on the News of the World which he hopes to launch through Kindle in about six weeks.
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