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August 07, 2006

A Quick Exchange Between A Foreign Stringer And Myself

Update: CNN actually lowered itself to cover this non-story on Inside Politics today. You can watch their in-depth coverage of the story, all two minutes and six seconds of it.

I haven't watched it, but I imagine Bill Schneider managed to say something profound, like "It's not considered ethical to doctor photos."

Anyway, back to my exchange with "Foreign Stringer."


...

At least he identifies himself as "Foreign Stringer." Whether he is or not, here's the exchange:


This quote sounded a bit racist to me, "low-paid, low-experience, low-credentials, foreign 'local' stringers." Why the need to use 'foreign?' Can't you specify the exact nationality you were referring to? There are so many foreign photojournalists. Did you mean all of them? Besides, even some American photojournalists are not the best models of integrity themselves.


My reply:

Foreign stringer,

I don't think it's racist. As for "low cost," well, the whole reason the media relies upon them is that it's too expensive to field many American/western journalists there.

As for "low-credentials," well, if they're stringers, they're not paid permanent employees of a media org. It's cash on the article or picture, right?

American newspeople are hardly any better, as you say.

However, what I'm obviously talking about here are local Muslim stringers. What sort of media culture do they come from? One that places a very high standard on objectivitity?

Or one that is similar to the Yellow Journalism period of American journalism-- sensationalist, often propaganistic, striving to provoke audiences, etc.?

Not only can I see with my own eyes from Al Jazeera, but I've asked, just to be sure, two different western media guys living in the Middle east, and they say the latter. One conceded that about half of foreign reporters in the ME "tried" to be as objective "as they could," but, he said, they still came from the same media culture where sizzle and sensationalism were most valued, rather than dry objectivitiy.

Furthermore, I refuse to believe that most Muslims don't have pretty strong feelings about any conflict between Muslims and Westerners or Israelis. If American media types can't keep their biases out of reporting -- and they can't -- then I can't see how most Muslims' passionate feelings about such matters can be kept out of their reportage, either.

...

And I wonder if they even try as much as American reporters do. (Who fail badly, again.)

It's not "Racist" to observe there are two different media cultures and media models here, and that Western media organizations are pretending that their local Muslim stringers come from the same sort of culture/model as their western counterparts.

I meant to put this up yesterday, but there was too much going on. But I asked Michael Totten and Jim Geraghty to explain their observations on the Muslim-world's media culture as regards objectivity and the like, and both, while not damning Muslim reporters, did say the media culture is generally as I've described it.

To sum up -- in my words, not theirs -- the objectivity of the most respectable Muslim/Arab world media outlets is about the same as that of American tablolids like the NY Post and Boston Herald -- and maybe a not even quite as restrained or dedicated to objectivity as those.

Imagine a media culture where the "Paper of Record" was a somewhat more jingoistic and propagandistic and provoking and pandering version of the New York Post. Now take freelance stringers from such a culture and begin using them for reportage and pictures as if they were no different than reporters from the New York Times.

What do you get?

Well, you get Adnan Hajj and the incredible embarrassment of Reuters, that's what you get.

I don't necessarily believe that Muslims' opinions on this are that far wrong. I kind of don't buy the American standard of Robotic Objectivity Even When It Comes To Wars Of Yourself Against Sworn Enemies.

But the American meda -- most of it, anyway -- claims to operate by such a standard (usually going so far in their "objectivity" to actively propagandize for America's or her allies' enemies). Now let a war be covered by stringers who are decidedly not believers in such a standard of objectivity, but rather who believe (somewhat understandably, I think) that one should skew reportage to help one's "side," and you have reportage which is skewed twice, once at the point of collection, again by the editors back at the headquarters, both times in the same direction: Against America and against Israel, and in favor of Hezbollah and Hamas.

A bit of recognition of this might have kept Hajj's ludicrous forgery off Reuters' news wires.

PS: Don't attribute my views to Geraghty or Totten. I'll put up their full quotes when I get the chance.

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posted by Ace at 06:08 PM

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