The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Letter responding to AJC assertions on media balance

This letter was sent to Jim Romenesko ( on May 6, 2006 responding to the ridiculous assertions of the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (Chicago Chapter):
========= ==========

Dear Jim:

I recently read the following letter from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee's Emily D. Soloff and felt obliged to respond because this topic is too important to ignore:

From EMILY D. SOLOFF, executive director, American Jewish Committee (Chicago
chapter): Ray Hanania’s argument that Palestinian voices are shut out of the US media is a hollow one. (For starters, he neglects to mention his column for the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, the third largest paper in Illinois.) The Chicago Tribune’s opinion pages, like those of major metropolitan dailies everywhere, are a cacophony of divergent voices regarding the Middle East. To claim otherwise ignores reality -- and the efforts of opinion page editors to provide diversity.There may not be many Arab columnists in the pages of American newspapers, but that has more to do with immigration patterns, education paths and vocational interests than
anti-Arab bias.

MY Response:

Ms. Soloff must be living on another planet. The Arlington Heights Daily Herald is ONE OF THE ONLY newspapers that features a column authored regularly (was weekly, then twice a month and now once each month) by a Palestinian or an Arab. And, right across the same page is a column written by a staff member at the AJC. It is a FACT that whenever a Palestinian or an Arab writes a column critical of Israel or that may criticize Israeli policy, it is usually accompanied by a column offering the Israeli or Jewish perspective to insure "balance" and "fairness." I don't object to that. What I do object to and what Ms. Soloff won't address is the other FACT that when columns by people supporting Israel are published, only occasionally do the newspaper Op-Ed editors feel compelled to include a column from the "other side" to offer balance and objectivity.

When it comes to coverage of the Middle East conflict and especially the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the mainstream American News Media is bigoted, biased and discriminatory, not so much in the news pages where imbalance by omission occurs, but on the Op-Ed pages where the supposed healthy debate on issues of importance facing American readers is supposed to occur.

Several detailed studies have been completed by, among others, Palestine Media Watch, which shows the imbalance on the Op-Ed pages of American newspapers.

I used to write a syndicated column for Creators Syndicate. Partly because of the heavy and oftentimes vicious attacks against me emailed to newspaper editors, my column was barely picked up even though I was the ONLY American Palestinian journalist who writes a regular column analyzing Middle East issues. My column was dropped because they couldn't find two newspapers in the United States willing to run my column on a regular basis even once each month -- I did two columns each week for Creators. (I have received two SPJ Lisagor Awards for column writing, including one for the Creators columns, and have been a runner up 7 times).

The columns did run occasionally in the Orlando Sentinel. And I did push the columns in Newsday. But that was it.

Now, Ms. Soloff wants to tell us that there is a balanced discussion going on in the Op-Ed pages of Americans 4,500 newspapers about a topic that is Priority #1 for Americans -- the Middle East conflict and the threat of terrorism. I do standup comedy occasionally (when a mainstream comedy club overcomes its fears that somehow I am going to be shot from the audience while on stage) but Ms. Soloff's comments are a joke.

This discussion needs to be expanded.

Why are mainstream American newspapers AFRAID to publish the views of Palestinians and Arabs like myself? I think that is a question the mainstream American news media doesn't want to answer. Not because of some "conspiracy" as extremists in my community contend, but because when it comes to the Middle East and the Palestine-Israel conflict, mainstream American journalists are biased, one-sided, and find comfort in allowing one side to be heard far more often than the other.

That is unprofessional journalism and the American media should address it.

Ray Hanania

AND A PS: Soloff neglected to mention that the AJC ALSO has a column published right across from my column EVERY TIME MY COLUMN APPEARS.



Here is the column that Ms. Soloff disingenuously responds to. She never mentions the FACTS in the column, that a retiring editor at the Chicago Tribune ADMITS that the media has not included Palestinian voices. Instead, Ms. Soloff does what many bigots often do who brow beat down the views htey dislike: she creates a straw dog argument and makes the case that the media is not bias leaving out my context..

Read Original Columns?

No comments: