- The Amateur Journalist: If he is not kidnapped on his first day of reporting, after mistaking a mukhabarat informant for a taxi driver, the Amateur goes on to send starry-eyed reports from FSA-held Idlib province. His story most likely includes an adrenaline-soaked adventure of running through bullet fire as he crosses the Turkish border with the help of men wearing black scarves with white squiggly lines on them. The article usually follows with this freelancer’s encounter with a local FSA leader (or activist, since these are considered interchangeable) who coincidentally turns out to be in charge of most of the province. This leader's long, scruffy beard contributes to his stoic, battle-worn mystique. The Amateur aims to show the human side of the story. The leader chats with him while nursing to health a stray wounded cat while the leader’s wife, who is wearing a traditional abaya that flows in the wind, refills the would-be journalist’s glass of hot, sticky tea. For two weeks, the mujahid gives the amateur the exclusive inside scoop on the revolutionary democratic system that he and his fellow villagers have implemented. A system where everyone - except of course women, young people, and Alawites - has a voice in deciding the appropriate sentence for those sinful souls who stole bread from the bakery. Yes, the future looks bright for the amateur journalist who chose war-torn Syria for his first beat (we are not counting his summer internship at the North Dakota Times).
- The Syrian-American FSA Revolutionary: The Syrian-American FSA Revolutionary's maternal great-grandmother was born in Damascus and immigrated to the US in her childhood. Since the beginning of the uprising, the revolutionary reminisces on Twitter about those two summers spent at his teta's house in the Shaam, where he would chase his cousins under the olive trees as the call to prayer emanated from the Umayyad mosque. This Revolutionary makes you look twice -- you may think he is reporting to you live from Aleppo, with his tweets every three minutes describing the situation on the ground with exacting detail and certainty, but after a few weeks, you find out he is actually broadcasting from the messy and chaotic battleground of his college dorm room in Chicago. His preferred news sources include "my second cousin Abu Mohammed in Homs," the Syrian Revolution Facebook page, blurry and unverified YouTube videos, and "#Syria" on Twitter. His "confirmed" reportage of events is retweeted religiously by his 5,272 followers, and even if his assertions are later contradicted, he rarely follows up: he is too busy hoisting his revolution flag at fundraisers for Syria with unverified recipients. The Revolutionary mocks the piss-poor media coverage of Syria, as he believes deeply in the importance of disseminating leaked naked pictures of Asmaa al-Assad, ridiculously good looking Syrian rebels nuzzling kittens, Bashar wearing different wigs, and other essential topics.
Cached image of New York Times story before headline was changed to omit words “Israeli-occupied West Bank.
A New York Times headline accidentally told the truth today about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, before it was ‘fixed.’
The original headline read “Palestinians Set Up Camp in Israeli-Occupied West Bank Territory.” Later, the headline was altered to remove the words “Israeli-occupied.” It now reads “Palestinians Set Up Tents Where Israel Plans Homes.”
The website Newsdiffs.org shows that the original headline was posted at 1:09 PM EST. It was discovered to have been changed at 7:10 PM EST.
A key goal of Israeli propaganda is to eliminate the term “occupied” from media coverage of Israel’s, well, occupation. Many media have adopted terms like “disputed” that grant false legitimacy to Israeli claims to the land which are totally null and void in international law.
The Times article still describes the area as “hotly contested piece of Israeli-occupied West Bank territory known as E1.” And yes, I’ve taken a screenshot in case they decide to change that too.
How the headline appears after the change.
— HRW: Israeli Attacks on Gaza Media Were Unlawful, Democracy Now!, 21 Dec
In accordance with the canons of good journalism, the press is supposed to tap competing sources to get both sides of an issue. In fact, both sides are seldom accorded equal prominence. One study found that on NPR, supposedly the most liberal of the mainstream media, right-wing spokespeople are often interviewed alone, while liberals — on the less frequent occasions they appear — are almost always offset by conservatives. Furthermore, both sides of a story are not usually all sides. The whole left-progressive and radical portion of the opinion spectrum is amputated from the visible body politic.
False balancing was evident in a BBC World Service report (December 11, 1997) that spoke of “a history of violence between Indonesian forces and Timorese guerrillas” — with not a hint that the guerrillas were struggling for their lives against an Indonesian invasion force that had slaughtered some 200,000 Timorese. Instead, the genocidal invasion of East Timor was made to sound like a grudge fight, with “killings on both sides.” By imposing a neutralizing gloss, the BBC announcer was introducing a serious distortion.
The U.S.-supported wars in Guatemala and El Salvador during the 1980s were often treated with that same kind of false balancing. Both those who burned villages and those who were having their villages burned were depicted as equally involved in a contentious bloodletting. While giving the appearance of being objective and neutral, one actually neutralizes the subject matter and thereby drastically warps it."
— Daniel Seaman, director of the Press Office of the Government of Israel in 2009 - relevant now as Israel targeted journalists yesterday (and then tried to blame Hamas)