(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why the Mainstream Media Just Doesn't Get It

This story is an outrage. (And it should get a lot more play than it has). As are many stories that Time and Newsweek don't cover because they are lazy or cowards, or both.

It's easy for the ever-so-thin national news magazines, journalism's version of soon-to-be-extinct dinosaurs to cover all sorts of issues related to Israel because a) Israel is small, b) Israel has few defenders, c) Israel is a popular fulcrum for international frustration by nations who use it to deflect attention away from the much more significant horrors they wreak on their own people and d) Israel is a democracy and provides easy access to its people. Compare and contrast Israel, say, to any Arab nation, China, Venezuela, Russia and almost any African nation and you'll find a society that's open about its issues. So, the hypotethical, average journalist with international responsibility elects to cover it and pick on it because access is both easy and safe.

Criticize China and your access is gone. Go to Iran and try to probe, and your access will vanish, as might you. Ditto for Libya, Syria, Oman, Yemen and many other countries on this earth. Go to Cuba and Venezuela and take on Castro and Chavez and you might not come home. Yet, the biased coverage persists, and responsible journalists should be ashamed of themselves, because they're missing stories left and right to cover the easy and familiar and, yes, safe.

This is a sports blog and it will continue to be so. That said, let's analogize this story to the issue of steroids in baseball. The entire national media acted like a bunch of glorified fans -- they had access to the clubhouse, access to the players and the best seats in the house. So, they covered the easy and safe story -- all of the home runs and power hitting. Why? Because to cover the fact that many players were using artificial means to accomplish those feats would have cost them access and perhaps subjected them to physical harm. As for the former, the players would have shut them out and not talked to them. As to the latter, a juiced player whose living becamse in jeopardy because of accusations from a 5'6", 140-pound reporter wouldn't have taken too kindly to the tough talk. Lose the access, lose the effectiveness, lose the job. Lose the physical battle, and, well, no one wants to get punched in the face or worse. So, the supposedly "tough" sports media acted like a bunch of fawning toadies during the McGwire-Sosa inflated stats years, and then they ducked responsibility by saying "what were we supposed to do" or "everyone else was covering it the same way" or "everyone was pretty much doing the stuff, so what was the story?" and other pieces of contrived wisdom belied their intelligence.

What were they supposed to do? They were supposed to do their (bleeping) jobs.

The same is the case with journalists charged with covering international politics and diplomacy. Horrors go on everywhere in the world, including many places that aren't democracies and don't offer access to the media or to the citizenry. Yet, those nations get votes in the United Nations and condemn the one democracy in the crucible in order to take away attention from themselves. Where is the national media on those stories?

At home, on their couches, where it's safe, because they, lest they want to admit it or not, like to do what's easy and convenient, but not what's necessary and important. And, until they do, they'll miss story after story, they'll perpetuate anti-Semitism, among other things, and they'll continue to condone awful stuff because either no one cares about places like Sudan or Venezuela or because it's just too hard to get there and find out the real story. I'll take one other issue head on, my use of the term "anti-Semitism." The way the international media covers Israel perpetuates the term and the plague, because the media coverage of countries and their own internal rights issues is grossly uneven. Because it's uneven, Israel gets a totally unfair shake when compared to the Chinas, Venezuelas, Sudans and Arab nations. That unbalanced coverage, lock, stock and barrel, feeds into anti-Semitism. Because they make it seem like Israel is an empire, an evil empire, the worst empire, especially in comparison.

It's the Jewish New Year, and I'd like to wish my Jewish friends a happy and healthy New Year. And I'd like to take the gloves off regarding the titled coverate of "Newsweek" (which should be called "Opinion Week") and "Time," whose cover story in a recent issue helps define "asinine." Both should be demanded and expected to do better.

So what should the international media be doing about all countries not named Israel that have significant problems, particularly in the human rights arena?

They should do their (bleeping) jobs and, when they do, they'll find out that some places they romanticize are hellholes and that Israel, in comparison, isn't so bad, and by the way, does a pretty good job of things given the threats from neighbors who deny the country's right to exist and from terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That's what they should do.


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