Thursday, May 03, 2007

Of Accuracy, Fairness, and Precision

In the sea of information of the Internet we see ourselves as an island of accuracy, fairness, and precision that is always present. Ynet is committed to uphold the rules of ethics of the Israeli Journalism Council and the Israeli Association of Journalists - no less than to the rules of speed and flexibility on the Internet.

No, this is not a description of Mishmar, but rather a self-description of Ynet News, which according to their website, is

based at the headquarters of Ynet in Tel Aviv, Israel... we develop our daily updates and features from the quality reporting and writing at Ynet and the best items from “Yedioth Ahronoth” and other publications from our parent company, Yedioth Group, Israel’s leading newspaper, book and magazine publisher.

I link to an article discussing an editorial which has appeared in the Israeli Yated, according to Ynet. While I think that discussion of the Yated editorial is a fair and important topic in of itself, I can not help but being turned off by the blatant anti-charedi stereotyping which appears in the "island of fairness", which in my opinion, renders the news source in question unprofessional .

For the record, if Ynet quotes the Israeli Yated editorial accurately and in context, I certainly do not agree with that editorial line, which I think goes beyond a strictly charedi point of view(my assumption being that there are varying degrees of acceptance of and sensitivity to secular Israeli's accomplishment in the charedi world).

What bothers me, for example, is the photo with the caption " Haredim Ungrateful", which appears on the upper left of the Ynet editorial. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, journalists should

make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

Of course, all writers, including this one have biases which may slant their writing and analysis. For that reason, advocacy journalists declare their biases upfront, and argue that they are better than mainstream media, whose biases may be more subtle and implicit.

Now considering that some consider the New York Times to have anti-Israel or other biases, what would be the equivalent of the Ynet photo and caption in the New York Times ? Sure, some, or even a number of charedim may support the Yated's views in varying degrees, but saying that a group as a whole, is "ungrateful" and attaching a graphic image to it, is taking sides in a complex situation resulting from a decades-long kulturkampf, can easily lead to ill feelings in the splintered Israeli society, and additionally as mentioned above, is unprofessional stereotyping. After all, we know who(or what) haredim are, so why the picture next to an editorial? I find it hard to imagine the New York Times or any major American media outlet doing the precise equivalent about Jews, Charedim, or about Israel. I realize that this is a broad statement, so I welcome comparisons in support or in disagreement with my contention.

I would think that the biases of the NYT and other mainstream media would appear to be more subtle, and in that way, the newpapers would have therefore not committed such egregious stereotyping. Yet some might feel that any issues in the other media are a worse example of bias, precisely because the slant is more subtle and it appears more professional than the Ynet example.

Back to Ynet, this post is based on my impressions which I have had for some time, and is obviously, not an exhaustive study. As above, if someone wants to cite examples from Ynet, supporting or disagreeing with my view, I welcome that as well.

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