How to Monitor The Media
- Put yourself in the shoes of a reporter or an editor. They are more receptive to constructive criticism than they are to pressure. Don’t just demand that the media be pro-Israel – but rather, factual, impartial, and honest. Always ask yourself: What would make this report better? Show the news agency not only what’s wrong with their story, but how there is a more balanced alternative. One way to do this is by showing how their competitors reported the story more fairly. This is the difference between complaining and constructive criticism.
- Mobilize a local monitoring group to increase your impact. Build an email list and alert the entire group when bias is spotted. This is the principle behind HonestReporting: One person acting alone may not be able to make a difference, but hundreds or thousands working together can. Be in touch with others from your city, for coordinated patrol activities.
- Clearly document any bias you see. Keep a log-book and note the specific article (with URL), or the exact date and time of a broadcast. What exactly did the reporter say? Then pinpoint why it is a problem, by citing relevant facts, etc. Also note examples of excellent reporting.
- You will never be able to convince the media to do things 100% your way. Refrain from nitpicking little points. Instead, pick one point that is the key to many others. For example, demanding that suicide bombers be labeled “terrorists” frames the conflict in completely different terms. Another example is contrasting Palestinian corruption and incitement with Israeli democracy. Choose your main battle and hammer away until your point is heard.
- Conduct an extensive study of your local media to determine if there is an objective pattern of bias. Analyze every article for one month, and systematically tabulate the frequency of photos for each side, the frequency of spokespeople quoted, etc. Individual examples intuitively indicate anti-Israel bias, but the typical response from media agencies is: “Our reporters are under extreme deadline pressure, and occasionally there will be an error in judgment. But it all balances out – sometimes skewed toward one side, and sometimes toward the other. But overall, our reporting is 100 percent fair and impartial.” This month-long content analyses will lay rest to that claim.
- Arrange a meeting with local writers and editors to express your concerns, to better explain the Israeli position, and to hold the newspaper accountable for what it publishes. Formulate a name for your group – e.g. the Gotham City Concerned Citizens Coalition; this demonstrates broad-based community support for your position. At the meeting, make your case persuasively and with as much documentation as possible; present your month-long content analyses. Instead of attacking the newspaper’s character, focus on their work and appeal to their professional integrity. A newspaper’s entire ability to stay in business is based on their perception of being accurate and impartial. If you have evidence to the contrary, they will listen.
- Meeting: Phase Two. At the end of the meeting, make them a deal: If they will agree to regular meetings, you will promise to restrain your rapid-response team and to restrict your complaints to only major errors. This takes tremendous pressure off the media, who abhor being flooded with email complaints and all the bad publicity. This also creates an ongoing dialogue, whereby local editors will eventually turn to HonestReporting activists as a resource on the Israeli perspective. You can then encourage local editors and reporters to visit Israel to see the complex issues first hand. Offer to help plan their itinerary and meet former local citizens who now live in Israel. And you can invite local reporters to meet with visiting Israeli academics or decision-makers.
- If the media agency refuses to meet with you, or if they continue to display an anti-Israel bias, then consider a public protest. This may take the form of a rally in front of their building (this must be coordinated with the local police department), or it may involve a campaign to cancel subscriptions (even for one day). Beware, however, that these methods can have a negative backlash, as it strikes some people as an attempt to limit freedom of the press. These tactics must be used wisely, and only when other methods have failed to produce results.
- Don’t limit yourself to print and broadcast media. Make your voice heard as well in Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards, and radio call-in shows. Hand out informational flyers at your local community center, school, and house of worship.
- 10. Expand your horizons. Get your news from a variety of sources in order to get a good sense of how different media groups promote different views. Also visit pro-Palestinian websites (e.g. ElectronicIntifada.net) to see how the other side is operating, and the arguments they use. You can also use this information to encourage your local media to report examples of incitement in the Arab world.