Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Media Commentary.

First of all, I think I’m in love with the Washington Post.  It’s a great newspaper.  It isn’t as comprehensive, and the editorial columnists aren’t nearly as fantastic as the New York Times just as its business section blows compared to the Wall Street Journal (and in general) just as it layout is horrible and I’d almost rather read USA Today because it’s packaging is much more attractive.  But, it’s a great all around paper: balanced, adequate, and equally fun and serious.  And, I find it to have pretty good analysis and good regard for journalistic ethics and standards.

I was just reading an installment from the Ombudsman (the actual piece, here which was quite interesting, I think) and it triggered one of my complaints of American newspapers.  It’s Israel coverage, or rather the consequences of it’s Israel coverage.
Here’s where I reveal my biases on the Israel/Middle East conflict.  I must admit, I’m only just starting to keep this issue on my radar; my knowledge on Israel/Lebanon/Gaza Strip/Middle East conflict is miniscule, far less than I  need to make a reputable opinion on the matter.  However, I’m a fan of stability, and I think military extremism (as it is expressed in the middle east) cannot co-exist with stability.  This opinion holds true for Israel and its enemies.  I’m not sure I can say that I side with either of the foes, but my gut feeling is that Israel is probably the more right, but definitely fueling the flames of its own fate.

Unfortunately, I find it very difficult to get a good opinion of what is true/false, or right/wrong in regards to the middle east.  Coverage of the issue is something I would consider jaded.  I think newspapers feel rather restricted to paint Israel negatively.  As the Washington Post Magazine illustrated well in last week’s issue, the Israel lobby is extremely powerful.  I think it sensible to believe that this power extends to the influence of media and popular culture.  They sure are influential on campus.

With this looming negative reaction to posting anything pro-palestine, how are we to expect that newspapers are being diligent in giving a full view of the issue?  On top of that, how can I hold a grudge over it?  The problem with accepting this though, is how do I go about forming a rational opinion over Israeli affairs?

Yes, I know that I can seek out other opinions, like going to overseas news sources, or talking to people on both sides…but the truth is that’s hard.  I barely have time to read the paper, blogs, and other American newspapers.  I don’t have enough time or will to become an expert of Israel.  That’s what I depend on newspapers for.

I must admit though, I’ve been surprised that I’ve been more or less satisfied with the coverage.  The coverage of extremist events have been less than extremist.  The coverage has been passionately dis-passionate and seems to have been reported well.

One more point, I definitely think its important to have variety even within a microcosm of the newspaper world (e.g. the varying Op/Ed conclustions between the NyTimes, WashPost, WSJ, LaTimes, etc..)  News is hard to report, and there have been many good faith efforts across the globe.

I guess to step down from my stump, and summarize: I wish newspapers didn’t have to pander to an audience.  I know that this will never happen (at least short of a revolution in the journalism that makes it much more profitable/cost effective or public outcry)  So, a final word.  Subscribe to a newspaper, don’t free ride.  Write letters to editors.  Participate.  Back up the talk.  (I don’t think I’m being hypocritical, I have a paid subscription to the WashPost and I’ve written letters to newspaper editors, etc.)

Howard Kurtz, a Washington Post Media Columnist, had a nice section in his blog entry about this.  I read it in midst of/after writing this post.

A quick question – Did anyone else notice how the WashPost buried Bush’s veto story (the day after the veto) on Page 4?  I was cheezed.  What was up with that, I thought that was front-page material, easy.