Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Trouble in Reuters-ville

Well, with things temporarily settled down between Hezbollah and Israel and the constant barrage of related media dropping off, I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect on the reporting of one of Reuters' shining stars of objectivism. I've been following her reporting for some months now, but we'll get to her in a moment.

Apparently, journalism schools in the UK teach differently than their other Western counterparts. It seems their classes on propaganda are not so much about its role in past history, but its role in the present. And their lectures not so much cautionary tales as 'how-to' seminars.

The editors at Reuters must have done very well at University, indeed. They have selected material not only from their best propaganda photographers, but also from their diverse "freelance" writing staff to bring about a "unique" view of the world. By the way, its all too convenient for big media these days to hire most of their reporters as "freelance", because if they screw-up and get themselves out'ed, they can be dismissed easily and discarded. "They were just freelance. Their views do not reflect our views. They have been dismissed." (Rolling up newspaper, the Guardian perhaps) "Bad! Bad, freelance reporter!"

Anyway, as I said above, I'd like to focus on one particular (no doubt "freelance") reporter of Reuters'. There are so many, but one must start somewhere. The name of this reporter is Lin Noueihed, a name you may see spelled slightly differently but mostly like this.

Let's just dive right in and take a look at Lin Noueihed's reporting:
Israeli strikes on Lebanon kill 41
Israeli air strikes killed 42 people across Lebanon on Monday, including 10 civilians hit on a southern bridge, on the sixth day of a bombardment that has wreaked the heaviest destruction in Lebanon for over 20 years.
This one is rather amazing to read. You can read it here. Ms. Noueihed goes on for three pages about Israeli attacks and the UN and blah blah for three pages before giving one line of coverage to the attacks of the day by Hezbollah, "Hezbollah launched rocket attacks on Haifa on Sunday, killing eight people in its deadliest strike on Israel." One line.

Not to be diverted from her stream of thought, Ms. Noueihed then writes, "Israel's campaign in Lebanon followed the launch of its offensive in the Gaza Strip on June 28 to try to retrieve another captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket fire." What kind of revisionist history is this? Israel's "campaign in Lebanon" followed a cross-border incursion, the killing of six Israeli soldiers and the taking of two hostages; having nothing to do with Gaza. While they followed chronologically, it's like saying "The United States invasion of Japan followed its succession from England."
Oil Spill Adds Ecological Crisis to Lebanon's Agony
Along Lebanon's sandy beaches and rocky headlands runs a belt of black sludge, 10,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oil that spilled into the Mediterranean Sea after Israel bombed a power plant.
Even with all of the fighting and deaths on both sides, its hard to describe either side as particularly being in "agony". Particularly an entire country. Clearly both sides are suffering. Journalists know better than most the power of words, and on the list of emotionally loaded words "agony" rates pretty high. Of course, you'll never find Ms. Noueihed reporting on the forest fires caused by Hezbollah rockets that have destroyed over 16,000 acres of land, over 1 million trees, setting forests and wildlife back an estimated 50 years. Read here for AP coverage.
Israel pounds Lebanon as casualties mount
Israel pounded Lebanon from the air on Friday in its bloody 10-day-old assault against Hezbollah, but the guerrilla group insisted it would only free two Israeli soldiers it is holding as part of a prisoner swap.
You know, when I took a class on journalism they deducted points for using loaded words like "bloody" when referring to events. Of course, let's not miss Ms. Noueihed's elevation of Hezbollah from "terrorist group" to "guerrilla group". Funny, I thought the distinction between terrorists and guerrillas is that one specifically targets civilians while the other targets governments. Can anyone with a straight face say that Hezbollah didn't target civilians?
Israeli Bombs Kill 11 in Lebanon
Israel battered Lebanon on Friday, killing 11 people as waves of air raids struck villages in the hills behind the southern port of Tyre and hundreds of artillery rounds crashed across the border.
"Crashed", eh? Planes crash, artillery shells don't. Minus 5 points.
Lebanon Rejects Draft U.N. resolution
Lebanon rejects a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to end 26 days of fighting because it would allow Israeli forces to remain on Lebanese soil, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Sunday.
Interesting article here about Ms. Noueihed's hijacking of the Lebanese government's response. Her source is apparently a powerful Lebanese official who is a strong supporter of Syria and opposed their expulsion following a Syrian-backed assassination of a Lebanese government official. "Analyzing Reuters' release closely George Chaya, Director for the Lebanese Information Office for Latin America in Buenos Aires said 'it is not really a coincidence that Lin Nouaihid twisted realities and induced millions of readers around the world into error in perception. From a thorough review of Nouaihid's previous campaigns through Reuters and other media, you can easily see her framings in the Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Koran affairs in addition to her postings on radical web sites. Nouaihid has all the freedom to express her ideological positions but Reuters credibility as a fair and professional news agency are now damaged.'" This from a Lebanese official. I couldn't have said it any better myself.
Lebanese Fleeing Israeli Bombs Sleep in Park, Schools
Some are sleeping in Beirut's tiny Sanayeh Garden, one of the capitol's few open spaces.
This "article" can be read here. Ms. Noueihed states that over 58,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in southern Lebanon. Never one to be impartial, Ms. Noueihed peppers her articles with novel-like imagery, "Piling flimsy mattresses on top of their rusty car, with belongings crammed into the back, Ali Sharara and his family fled the southern suburb of Beirut when the first bombs fell." Hmmm, I wonder if Ms. Noueihed has written any articles about the hundred thousand plus people that have fled Haifa and the surrounding area, sleeping in basements and like their Lebanese counterparts, schools? Let's see ... um ... nope.
Israeli Strikes Kill 13 Lebanese
Israeli air strikes killed 13 civilians in Lebanon and Hezbollah battled Israeli ground troops on Monday as the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a draft resolution seeking to end 27 days of fighting.
Ok, this is getting monotonous. All of Ms. Noueihed's articles are starting to sound the same. Here's a handy Google search. With this search you may not even need to read her articles anymore. Here's a synopsis of the Ms. Noueihed's recent headlines for you (from Reuters):
Israeli Strikes Kill 14 Lebanese
Israeli Strikes Kill 10 Lebanese Civilians
Israeli Strikes Kill 18 Lebanese
Israeli Air Raids Kill 40 Civilians in Lebanon
Israeli Bombs Kill 13 in Lebanon
Israeli Bombs Kill 11 in Lebanon, Rice Stays Away
Israeli Bombs Kill 14 in Lebanon
Israeli Air Raids Kill 47
Israeli Air Strikes on Lebanon Kill 48
Israeli Strikes on Lebanon Kill 41
Israeli Air Strikes on Lebanon Kill 42 People
Israeli Air Raids Kill 58, Foreigners Flee Lebanon
Israeli Jets Strike Lebanon, Thousands Flee
Israeli Strikes Kill 16 Lebanese
Israeli Strikes Kill 10 Lebanese civilians
I tried to find anything from Ms. Noueihed with a title like "Hezbollah Rocket Strikes Kill 15 Israelis", but sadly I was unable to find any.

Lin Noueihed's reporting is an affront to impartial media. There isn't even the barest attempt to provide even-handed reporting. From a partisan magazine, or from editorial pages, such slanted journalism is accepted. However, Reuters puts itself forward as an impartial source of news and provides feeds to thousands of news outlets around the globe. Their complete lack of diligence in vetting the facts of what they report borders on negligence if not outright complicity. And believe me, there are plenty of accusations of complicity with the Hezbollah propaganda machine about.

This is a call to the blogosphere to monitor Reuters like hawks. Actually, not just Reuters but all major media. To take upon ourselves the editorial oversight that modern media has simply foregone in favor of circulation numbers, viewership, advertising dollars and unfortunately, ideological agendas. The internet has a unique way of allowing people in distant places to weave together information and make connections that before have not been apparent. Its one of the things that gives me hope.