HonestReporting Canada monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and affects change through education and action.
By: Daniel Horowitz Published: February 14th, 2013
Shalom Life is proud to present our 3rd annual ”Top 20 Under 40” list. Over the next 20 days, Shalom Life will showcase 20 individuals of diverse talents and backgrounds that have made a significant contribution to their field both locally and globally. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists, entertainers to doctors, this list places a spotlight on a small sampling of the spectacular, innovative, and passionate Jews that call Toronto home.
Heaven knows, Israel has rarely, if ever, received a fair shake from the global media.
So, when it comes to depicting the Jewish State from an objective, fact-based perspective, it takes someone with the unrelenting passion for truth, combined with the knowledge and courage to spread the word.
That’s where Mike Fegelman and HonestReporting Canada comes in.
To ensure that Israel is represented fairly and accurately, HonestReporting monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and affects change through education and action.
An example of the important work undertaken by Fegelman and HonestReporting Canada took place during the course of reporting on the winter storms taking a toll across the Middle East and in Israel in particular, when CTV committed a capital offense by claiming that Tel Aviv was Israel’s capital, not Jerusalem. At various times and on several regional CTV stations on January 8th, CTV reported that: “… Tel Aviv is dealing with a heavy rain situation. The storms flooded roads and brought chaos to the Israeli capital…”
Responding to complaints by HonestReporting Canada and its members, CTV News President Wendy Freeman issued the following statement: “Tel Aviv was incorrectly reported as the capital city of Israel earlier this month. CTV News immediately took measures to ensure the correct information was being reported as the story progressed.”
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And what makes HonestReporting Canada even more valuable is that when media bias – or erroneous “facts” about Israel are made, its worldwide base of subscribers take proactive action by contacting news agencies, drawing issues of bias to their attention, and requesting changes. Media outlets, correspondents, and editors are now held accountable for biased reporting and are becoming more aware of the need for factual, impartial and fair reporting. Their subscribers also make use of their Communiqués to bolster their own knowledge and understanding of the often complex issues.
And the results brought on by HonestReporting Canada’s interactive philosophy speak volumes. Since 2003, HRC has prompted hundreds of apologies, retractions, and revisions from news outlets. These efforts are changing the face of the media and reporting of Israel throughout the world.
“As a practicing journalist early on in my career, I was looking for a way to combine my analytical skill-set and passion for Israel while earning a living at the same time,” explains Fegelman, the Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada. “On a CIE Birthright Israel trip in the summer of 2004, I came across a flyer saying, “Help Fight Media Bias Against Israel, Join Honest Reporting.”
From that moment on, Israel had a feisty, determined proponent on its side with Fegelman, a 31-year-old father of two.
“Having always felt that a local problem existed with our media requiring a distinctly Canadian approach, effort, and undertaking, I wanted to get involved in any way that I could to help make a difference,” he says. “On my return back to Toronto, I found out that there was a local Canadian affiliate (the organization has affiliates in the United States, UK, Italy, and Brazil) and discovered that a position was open and the rest, as they say, is history. Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Fegelman, who credits his late father for his tenacity, work ethic and commitment to community values, cites the growth – under his direction – of Honest Reporting Canada.
So, just what is Fegelman, who not surprisingly lists “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for nothing,” as his favourite quote, see as his biggest professional achievement since taking the reins of HonestReporting Canada?
“I’m very proud of the fact that our subscriber base has grown from one person in 2004 to more than 32,000 today,” says Fegelman, who credits the tireless efforts of HonestReporting Canada’s committed Board of Directors and his colleague, Quebec Regional Director Michelle Whiteman, for the organization’s success. “I’m also quite pleased that we have formed dynamic relationships with hundreds of members of the Canadian media elite, and that our work is recognized by mainstream media outlets, community stakeholders and politicians as effective, accurate, efficient and vital.”
Still, not one to seek the spotlight, or bask in personal plaudits, Fegleman hopes to lead by example.
“I don’t need recognition, but if my efforts inspire others to stand Israel in high esteem and to assume their responsibilities to be Jewish leaders, I’d be quite satisfied with that,” he says.