Media Report Card
Accuracy in Israel/Palestine Reporting
Beginning in 2003, If Americans Knew1 will issue a report card to major media across the country on their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The San Jose Mercury News is the first publication to receive a preliminary report, covering the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2002.
Given that the media have a desire and a responsibility to cover this topic accurately, we provide these reports in the hope that our analyses can assist them in this goal.
In addition, we are making these reports public, as a way to help readers evaluate for themselves the reliability of their sources of information on this issue.
The goal of this report is to
In the future, we will also compare the publication’s current and past assessments, in order to measure any improvement or setbacks in performance.
We recognize that reporting on Israel/Palestine has been an exceptionally controversial topic. Therefore, while there are many potential yardsticks for measuring accuracy, for this initial report we chose criteria that could not be construed as at all subjective. We counted the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths the San Jose Mercury News reported in the headlines on the front page:
We chose this yardstick because it is simple, quantitative and relatively immune to subjective interpretation. In addition, we wanted to discover whether the San Jose Mercury News demonstrates even-handed respect for human life, regardless of ethnic or religious origin. Finally, because front-page headlines are often among the most prominent aspects of coverage that the reader absorbs, we believe they play a disproportionate role in generating an overall impression about the conflict and the relative consequences for Israelis and Palestinians.
Beginning next quarter, we will expand our analysis to include other criteria. These are described below under “Next Steps.”
For the six-month period, 140 Israeli deaths were reported in San Jose Mercury News front-page headlines, compared with 20 Palestinian deaths.
The next chart summarizes the reporting for April to September in total. It compares the number of deaths reported in front-page headlines to the number of deaths omitted, for Israelis and Palestinians respectively.
In other words, 73% of Israeli deaths and only 4% of Palestinian deaths were reported on San Jose Mercury News front-page headlines.
In order to better understand reporting on this topic, we will conduct a deeper investigation in the future, while maintaining our objective of using yardsticks that are simple to understand and least open to subjective interpretation. They are
We are concerned about the results of this preliminary examination. We believe the readers of the San Jose Mercury News, as well as all Americans, are entitled to full and accurate reporting on all issues, including the topic of Israel/Palestine.
We assume that the San Jose Mercury News is as disturbed as we have been to find these shortfalls in its quest to provide excellent news reporting to its readers. Now that it has been alerted to these distortions in its Israel-Palestine coverage, we encourage the Mercury News to undertake whatever changes necessary to provide accurate news coverage of this vital issue. We hope that our next report will be more positive. We will be pleased to report this to the public.
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