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NPR crunches its Israel/Palestine conflict story numbers

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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3 Responses to NPR crunches its Israel/Palestine conflict story numbers

  1. pabelmont May 8, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    I wonder how often (in last 10 years) NPR has laid out the international law considerations which make all the settlements (both buildings and human settlers) illegal? Has it reported the 1980 UNSC resolution (unanimous, I read somewhere) UNSC-465, which calls upon Israel to cease settlement and to remove ALL settlers and demolish ALL settlements (buildings)? Has it reported the International Court of Justice (July 9, 2004) advisory opinion concluding that the settlements are illegal and the wall is illegal (and should be removed)?

    If not why not? If so, how does it square USA’s policy to support Israeli illegality?

  2. Matthew Lasar May 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    A footnote to NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shephard’s commentary on the Lourdes Garcia-Navarro settlements piece defines “settlements” as such:

    *The United Nations, the U.S. and nearly all other countries still consider Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the Golan Heights, to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions. The United Nations routinely refers in official documents and statements, to Jewish areas in East Jerusalem as “settlements.”

  3. Susan May 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Amazing how people can still say “Israeli settlements are illegal” without actually quoting any actual recognized international law that actually makes them such. Actually. Or… There’s a reason why the word “non binding” was made: so states that gang up on other states can’t always succeed, just because they have the numbers.

    The very word “settlements” is deliberately orchestrated to give a negative opinion – Goebbels must be dancing in his grave – his Big Lie theory had been vindicated.

    But at least NPR is being so open – when can we expect a critique of the actual content of the pieces, rather than just misleading empty numbers? Just to make myself perfectly clear: hypothetically speaking, 6 stories about how horrible Israel is do NOT balance out 5 stories about how oppressed the poor Palestinians are.

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