Added to the exponentially-expanding workload of the journalists are the online competitors for the latest and the most widely-spread news. Those computer jockeys race quickly with little or no oversight or accountability, giving the few real journalists more than a run for their money. Being a journalist in the 21st century brings to mind the title of a book from a few decades ago: “I’m dancing as fast as I can.”
The Internet thus propels the news cycles into warp speed, with the concomitant loss of care, facts and professionalism.
Lavie recalls with pride that his position used to be, and it was one accepted by all of his earlier employers: “I may not be first, but I will be right.” For Lavie, accuracy and completeness were paramount. Those two qualities are now held in far lower esteem.
The seminal moment for Lavie came while listening to an AP “Town Hall” in 2004. Lavie told The Jewish Press, the person speaking – he thinks it was Tom Curley, and the timing is right, Curley was president of the AP in 2004 – said: “speed matters more than heft.”
Lavie knew then it was the beginning of the end.
But the focus for The Jewish Press is Lavie’s take on how, as he put it in an August article he wrote for The Israel Project’s publication, The Tower: “Why Everything Reported From Gaza is Crazy Twisted.”
REPORTING FROM GAZA IS ‘CRAZY, TWISTED’
David Hazony, the editor of The Israel Project’s publication The Tower, ran into Lavie in Tel Aviv this past summer. The two discussed the media coverage of the then-ongoing war in Gaza, focusing in particular on the intimidation by Hamas of reporters and the way that was, and has long been, impacting coverage. Lavie decided he would write up his thoughts, based on his personal experiences. That was how his article appeared in The Tower. It was written while Operation Protective Edge was taking place, a time when no one covering the conflict would dare write such an account.
Lavie’s account is an important one, and should be read in full. He gives half a dozen concrete examples of events which were either mis-reported or not reported as the direct result of intimidation. He provides specifics, quite a few of which people will recall.
The crazy, twisted reporting can be traced to two factors: ideology and intimidation. Most reporters want to identify with the underdog, which is how the Palestinian Arabs have been indelibly branded. In addition, the stringers upon whom the non-Arabic speaking foreign journalists must rely, all largely identify with the unquestioned position that the “Occupation” is the cause of all Arab suffering. Plus, most reporters and stringers alike prefer they and their families remain breathing, something much less likely if one reports anything negative about the Palestinian Arabs.
As a result of these two factors, even beyond the broader changes in journalism wrought by cutbacks and social media competition, nearly all the coverage of the Middle East sanitizes or ignores virtually any wrongdoing by the Palestinian Arabs, and, correspondingly, maximizes or fabricates wrongdoing by Israel.
After his article came out in The Tower, Lavie completed an update to the second edition of his book The Broken Spring. This edition addresses the distorted coverage of the Middle East by the foreign media.
And then, you can really feel his frustration level rising in this blog post of his from Oct. 22, 2014:
Yahoo News and AP ran a headline that read, “Israeli police shoot E. Jerusalem man.” This man is the one who rammed his vehicle into a light rail station, killing a baby. Soon the two culprit agencies changed their headlines (Yahoo just copies AP), but it’s time to expose this whole fraud of Western news coverage of israel. I know all about it. I worked in Western media in the Mideast for 40 years. Now I don’t.
Lavie is laser-focused on the Arab-Israel conflict, but he warns listeners that the twin demons of modern journalism, ideology and intimidation, are found not only with Palestinian Arabs, but for any totalitarian government, dictatorships or Third World leaders.