Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2003 / 14 Tishrei, 5764

Alicia Colon

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A warning to journalists


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | "At Syms, an educated consumer is our best customer." That's the slogan of the Manhattan clothier but followers of current national events should not have to rely on their own efforts to get at the truth. That is supposed to be the duty of journalists but sadly, that is no longer the case. To accurately decipher current events and their importance, readers have to educate themselves rather than rely on certain news sources. Opinions that used to be restricted to the editorial pages now cloud news articles and not only are readers recognizing that fact, they are starting to rebel.

Over 1000 subscribers to the LA Times canceled their subscriptions because of that paper's obvious partisan attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger just days before the recall election. The West Coast newspaper used to have a policy rejecting all charges made by anonymous sources. According to syndicated columnist Jill Stewart, that was the case in 1997 when the paper rejected her article asserting leveling negative charges against Governor Gray Davis. The LA Times, however, had no compunction in reporting anonymous charges against Schwarzenegger in the final hours of the campaign.

It used to be difficult to assess the political predilection of journalists but that was a very long time ago. Walter Cronkite was once named the most trusted man in America because he could be relied on to report the facts fairly and sans bias. He waited for his retirement to reveal which side his political loyalties lie but no such mystery exists about current broadcast anchors. In my opinion, Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press is the only network journalist who understands the importance of a fair and balanced interview.

What may be fueling the increasing lack of impartiality among journalists is the high level of animosity towards President Bush emanating from traditional liberals in the Fourth Estate. Many regard this as payback for the shrill voices of the Clinton-haters during and after that administration. But is turnabout fair play when so many lives are at stake? I think not.

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While vicious discourse has always been part and parcel of the political forum, we are now engaged in WWIII, a global struggle in which many lives and our own existence are at stake. Kudos to a brave Democratic congressman, Jim Marshall of Georgia, who recognized the hazards of extreme partisanship.

In an interview with Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, the congressman warned, "we have a problem with overly pessimistic media coverage that emboldens our enemies, discourages our potential allies and lessens our resolve." He also said, "media bias is killing our troops." Congressman Marshall who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee was on a fact finding trip to Iraq and reported that there is good news to balance the bad but that there is " a disconnect between the reporting and the reality."

I'll say! Consider the recent release of U.S. Weapons Inspector David Kay's progress report to Congress on the search for WMD's. The New York Times headlined the story "No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq." On the other hand, John Podhoretz of the New York Post reported that key evidence was found. In both cases, the information was accurate but a careful reading of the report itself, however, not only vindicates the president's position it also supports his contention that danger was imminent.

Mr. Kay's statement includes details of a $10 million contract between North Korea and Iraq for the purchase of prohibited military equipment and 1,300-km range ballistic missiles. Military experts have concluded that the only reason North Korea did not deliver that equipment was because it knew that the U.S was going to attack Iraq. What if we had not gone to war? Mr. Kay 's reported testimony from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials confirm that Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons. But don't just take my word for it. Read it yourself at www.CIA.gov.

This significance of Kay's report should have been given widespread and accurate coverage in the mainstream press. Instead it has been spun to satisfy each editor's ideological agenda and the public is further polarized. I watched a pundit on the Chris Matthews show argue that the report proves that the United States was not in danger because the missiles could not reach our shores. Apparently, the danger to Israel and the rest of the Middle East is unimportant.

It's foolish and inaccurate to bandy the word 'treason" about lightly but the level of partisan sniping is so out of control that it needs to be reined in. I am reminded of the brilliant Alec Guiness' portrayal of a British POW in Bridge on the River Kwai.

His character is so consumed with ego and ambition that he collaborates with the enemy to build a strategic bridge. Only after betraying his fellow POWs' efforts to sabotage the project and causing several of their deaths, does he come to his senses and realizes the horror of his complicity.

Memo to all journalists and rabid politicians-this is not a movie.



JWR contributor Alicia Colon is a columnist for the New York Sun. Comment by clicking here.

Up

09/05/03: As 9-11 plus-2 approaches, complacency threatens to rot Big Apple
08/28/03: So the Iraq war is a fiasco, huh?

© 2003, Alicia Colon