Print ethical journalism, not propaganda

This is in response to the recent string of articles and letters discussing the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Following the lively article in which the Daily editorial staff went to great lengths to demonstrate their dedication to accuracy over agendas (“Star Tribune chooses accuracy over agendas,” April 8), I felt I should support them in their efforts.

Having worked in Bosnia for a year and a half, I took notice of the recent media commentary marking the 10-year anniversary of the outbreak of war in the former Yugoslavia. The assessment was rather overwhelming.

In the time since the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, there has been almost no headway made in forging a multi-ethnic, civil-state that functions as a whole. In fact, the only reason the combatants have laid down their arms is due the continued presence of the stabilization force. Of the many factors contributing to the continued lack of interethnic cooperation, a major one is unethical media following ethnic agendas.

I have had much exposure to news disseminated by unethical media, and it is for that reason my attention was drawn to the report written by Tzaporah Ryter (“Urgent: Eyewitness report from Ramallah,” April 5) and the response written by Koby Nahmias (“Urgent: Eyewitness report from Palestine,” April 8).

This discussion, facilitated by the Daily, is reminiscent of the unethical debates I witnessed and witness in the Balkan media. Neither writer adheres to any semblance of ethical journalism. Their facts are, for the most part, unverifiable or biased.

In addition, the gory details of both articles and the statistics – quoted out of context by both Ryter and Nahmias – are more similar to the news one might see while waiting in line at the grocery store than from a reputable newspaper.

The electronic intifada news source, in which Ryter’s article was originally published, has countering Israeli propaganda as its main objective, and it gives the Palestinian “spin” on the conflict. This is not an objective news source.

Furthermore, Martin Luther was an anti-Semite. Sammy Davis was a Jew. It seems to me the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is appropriate. Being Jewish gives Ryter no more credibility than does Nahmias’ calling his buddies on the phone.

An alleged phone conversation with soldiers on the ground in Israel is not a reliable source of information either – not because a soldier cannot be trusted as a witness, but because soldiers fall under a highly structured and regulated chain of command removing them from all but the most limited details. A reservist in the Israeli Defense Force would not be privy to Sharon’s objectives or, more applicably, to war crimes committed in another room, building or city.

I realize the Daily is a student newspaper. It is, however, “the world’s largest student produced and managed newspaper” and should, therefore, be held accountable to high standards given its influential status.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, journalists should (among other things) seek truth and report it honestly, fairly and courageously. They should minimize harm by treating all human beings as deserving of respect. Also, they should act independently – being free of any interest other than the public’s right to know. Lastly, they should hold themselves accountable to their public and admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

Therefore, in light of these standards, I am calling on the Daily to adhere to ethical journalism and truly choose accuracy over agendas. In the same way the Daily would never print accusations of me being abducted by aliens (illegal or extraterrestrial), it should not publish unverifiable journalism intended to shock rather than inform its readers.

I am not asking for censorship. I am asking the editors of the Daily to make better
decisions in what they choose to publish.

Jorma Cavaleri is a French studies senior and Army reservist. Send comments to [email protected]