The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Media Bias does exist: response to American Jewish Congress on media bias

An open letter to American news media editors
By Ray Hanania

Recently, in a letter to the editor of Editor & Publisher, one of America’s leading publications on professional journalism, I expressed the view that the American news media is biased when it comes to offering balance on the issue of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Later, the letter was picked up by a popular journalism discussion web site hosted by Jim Romenesko and that posting later led to a letter criticizing me from Emily D. Soloff, Executive Director of the Chicago American Jewish Committee.

Soloff wrote: “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.”

In response to Ms. Soloff and to American Editors who need to take this issue more seriously than they do, I wrote that she was being disingenuous.

For example, while I do write a column for the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago. The Daily Herald is the ONLY newspaper in America that features a regularly published column authored by a Palestinian American professional journalist. I might even proffer that it is the only column authored by an Arab American professional journalist.

What Ms. Soloff neglected to mention in her unprovoked and honestly perplexing assault is that the American Jewish Committee ALSO have a member of their staff who writes a column that appears across from my column in every issue that my column appears.

My column began publishing weekly, with the mandatory “Israeli” response that accompanies most Arab or Palestinian columns. It went to twice monthly and now only on the first Monday of each month.

Wow, what an example of how America’s more than 4,500 American newspapers are providing balance to the Arab and Palestinian Americans who also live in this country along with supporters of Israel, a foreign country.

She also did not note the admission of a former editor at the Chicago Tribune who admitted, upon retiring from the newspaper, that the Chicago Tribune had failed to present both sides and that the Palestinian voice was knowingly absent from its pages, and from the pages of other major American newspapers. Of course, putting those views there was his job.

I don't object to the fact that my column in the Daily Herald is ALWAYS accompanied by a column offering the Israeli perspective. God forbid that an American newspaper might publish the Arab or Palestinian view by itself. That would be biased and discriminatory, I guess. I am so confident of the truth of my views that I want them to be placed next to the Israeli viewpoints to show how weak the pro-Israeli viewpoints often are.

As has been repeatedly demonstrated in numerous professionally conducted reports by Palestine Media Watch, the pro-Israel viewpoint dominates American news pages and almost always without ever being paired with a pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian voice. Pro-Israeli viewpoint often appears alone, as if the pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian voice doesn’t exist in America at all.

In contrast, the pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian viewpoint is rarely published.

I wrote a column for Creators Syndicate, the only professional syndicated and distributed Op-Ed piece in America by a Palestinian American. Although I have won two Society of Professional Journalism/Chicago Chapter Column Writing awards (and received seven runner-up distinctions), Creators could not find two newspapers that would even consider running the column on a regular basis, not even once each month.

The Orlando Sentinel was one of the only newspapers in the United States that carried my column occasionally – usually along side the pro-Israel viewpoint. They deserve praise for their courage to be professional journalists, rather than one-sided bigots like most of Americans other newspapers.

My column also occasionally would be published in Newsday in New York, and a few other papers a few times each year. And, the column was picked up regularly by some newspapers in the Arab World, also.

The point is 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.

This bias does not so much exist in the news reporting by individual news reporters, although sometimes news coverage leans towards the Israeli or Jewish American perspective. The main problem exists on the pages associated with a newspaper Editorial Pages, called the “Op-Ed” pages, or “Opposite the Editorial” pages.

It is on those pages where Americans seek to find analysis and understanding of the issues in the daily news reports. It is there where most Americans are pushed to make up their minds to support or oppose issues.

While Op-Ed pages are usually balanced on most other issues, when it comes to the Palestinian or Arab view, the imbalance is dramatic.

Ms. Soloff’s assertion that this is the result of immigration patterns is ridiculous. Examine newspapers in any major city where Arab Americans are present and the problem continues to exist, including at notoriously anti-Arab newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Detroit News.

Look in cities where there the presence of Jewish Americans is small, and the pro-Israel columns still out-number the pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian views. Her argument is facetious at best.

Ms. Soloff is a paid advocate and activist for Israel. I expect her to lie. What concerns me more are the actions of individuals who claim to be objective and professional journalists.

Why are they afraid to publish the views of Palestinians and Arabs like myself? That is a question the mainstream American news media doesn't want to answer.

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. Worse, and even more unprofessional, is the refusal of the mainstream American media to even address this subject in-depth.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist based in Chicago. He can be reached at


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