Sunday, February 05, 2006

Media: Jazeera, The Guardian, Drudge Work

I sat on a pretty tedious panel at an Al Jazeera conference in Doha last week, listening to the usual attacks from fellow Americans on the "mainstream media" and predictable rants from regional journalists, on stage and off. Such is the price of participation. What surprised -- stunned me, in fact -- was a little item about the panel written by one Julia Day as part of The Guardian's online media coverage. Not only are the quotes taken out of context, they are inaccurate. One example: 20 years ago Newsweek had five permanent correspondents in Paris, which is what I said. She quoted me telling the audience there were 25. More importantly, I did not say the US media were uninterested in covering foreign news, as Day suggests, I said the American public was not interested in reading it, which makes our job a hell of a lot harder. At a conference such as this, the audience (and some panelists) labor under the impression that Americans are anxious to know what's happening in, say, Doha, and it's the mainstream media that are thwarting this great public desire for word of Qatar. One hates to disappoint, but ...

I also got a little testy listening to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! talking about coverage of Iraq and other wars around the world as if those of us who've spent our lives reporting on conflicts would prefer to be trapped on one side of the fight "embedded" with the U.S. military. Clearly Amy has little or no experience actually trying to deliver the kind of on the ground coverage she says she wants. In a rant about the dangers posed to the press by American troops, dangers which are real enough, to be sure, she failed utterly to mention the dangers posed by the Zarqawi group and freelance kidnappers. Until I called her on it, she hadn't even mentioned the case of Jill Carroll.

I have to say I'm disappointed in The Guardian, and not surprised that its particularly crappy reporting was picked up by Drudge and others who, normally, ignore the wiser articles printed by the paper.

Fortunately, blogger Ethan Zuckerman was onstage as one of the panelists -- and blogging all the while. His coverage of the panel was considerably more fair and accurate than the mainstream Guardian:

'Christopher Dickey, the Middle East editor for Newsweek, uses his time to talk about the way the rest of the world sees the United States. Based on his experience as a foreign correspondent for 25 years, Dickey knows what the US wants from the rest of the world: “What the US wants from the rest of the world is to forget about it. Americans want to think about their future in their country and pay as little attention as possible to the rest of the world.” As a result, it’s an uphill battle for foreign correspondents. People are automatically unintererested in the stories foreign correspondents are telling. Correspondents have to seduce people into reading what people ought to be reading. Dickey reminds us that the perception that American media controls the world is pretty far from the truth - actually, American media is dying. Newsweek used to have several foreign bureaus and dozens of foreign correspondents - now Dickey is one of the very few dedicated foreign correspondents for the paper. ...

'Chris Dickey reacted somewhat sharply to Goodman’s remarks, noting “It’s damned hard to cover from ground zero.” Kidnappings and security concerns mean that American media covers the American side, while Arab media covers the Arab side. We want to cover both sides… which was what Jill Carrol was trying to do when she got kidnapped. “More journalists are being killed that ever before because they’re more expendable than ever before.”'... http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/?p=357
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