NPR has released an exhaustive audit of its Israel/Palestine dispute coverage for the first quarter of this year. Since NPR doesn’t do public audits of its environmental, mobile phone, or country music coverage, I’m guessing that the review reflects the fact that anything you write about the Israel/Palestine subject is grist for the protest mill of a host of self-appointed Israel/Palestine watchdog groups (and their allies in Congress).
Want a sense of how intense this sort of bean counting can get? Here’s the audit’s “fairness/balance” roster:
“Of the 56 radio items reviewed for this report,” the audit notes:
- 3 had a dominant focus on Israel;
- 4 had a dominant focus on the Palestinians;
- 6 focused about equally on Israel and the Palestinians;
- 6 focused on U.S. efforts to revive direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians;
- 8 focused on the domestic political upheaval in Egypt;
- 6 focused on relations between Israel and Egypt in light of Egypt’s political upheaval;
- 6 focused on various aspects of U.S. policy toward the Middle East, including 2 items focusing on U.S. relations with Israel, 2 focusing on U.S. relations with Egypt, and 2 focusing on broader U.S. concerns in the region;
- 5 focused on political events in Lebanon;
- the remaining 12 items focused on other matters related to Israeli-Palestinian issues.
The audit faults NPR for a number of stories that seemed unbalanced to the editors, most notably a profile of life in a Palestinian village near Israel’s occupied settlements. The feature was criticized by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which is currently celebrating the refusal of the City University of New York to award Tony Kushner an honorary degree based on Kushner comments about Israel that a CUNY board member didn’t like (looks like he’ll get it after all).
“Missing entirely from the otherwise nicely executed piece is the Israeli side,” noted NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. “What do the Israelis say?”
As for NPR “web only” items:
- 1 item focused primarily on Israel;
- 3 items focused primarily on the Palestinians;
- 5 items focused about evenly on Israel and the Palestinians;
- 3 items focused primarily on Lebanon;
- 5 items focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process;
- 4 items focused primarily on relations between Israel and Egypt;
- 5 items focused primarily on U.S. diplomacy in the region, particularly in response to the Arab unrest;
- 13 focused on other matters with some connection to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
“Of the 39 Web-only items, 17 quoted Israelis while 9 quoted Arabs (including Palestinians),” the audit concludes. Not that anyone’s counting.
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