There is a dangerous myth concerning the American media that is circulating not only on our campus here in Ann Arbor but in various locations around the country. It is our collective civic responsibility to be aware of this myth and to work to dispel it in The Michigan Daily and elsewhere. It has become an increasingly popular activity for irresponsible journalists to accuse the American media of lies and bias. While I am an ardent supporter of the freedom of speech and an unregulated press, I also understand that it is unfair for the Ann Arbor community to be exposed to such accusations while they are lacking any coherent and logical supportive evidence.
It is the journalist’s obligation to support his or her accusations and claims with evidence and a proper context. For example, Ibrahim Kakwan’s recent column in the Daily claims that it was a human rights violation for the United States to send weapons to Israel prior to its incursion into Gaza and that it is inconceivable to him that this occurrence didn’t receive much attention from the American media (Middle East misinformation, 04/09/2009).
The reason why this accusation is a far cry from responsible journalism is because the writer purposefully avoids the situation’s context in order to achieve his agenda. For example, had the writer mentioned that Israel was a victim of daily rocket fire prior to the incursion during an agreed cease-fire with Hamas it is likely his readers would understand why such a shipment of arms is neither an act of human rights abuse nor something that is newsworthy.
Perhaps Kakwan thinks American journalists should learn from their comrades at the French 2 news organization, which epitomizes irresponsible reporting. In November 2004, this organization was exposed for publishing a false report, which claimed the Israeli Defense Forces killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy named Muhhamud al-Dura. In actuality, evidence came to light that the journalists in charge of the story had no proof that the boy was harmed, but still published his death.
While this example is a very extreme one, it is important to consider when we think about what it means to publish accusations without their context and what kind of responsibility it entails to be a journalist in the U.S.