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A War Between Neighbors, Seen From Their Back Yard

Fox anchor Shepard Smith and correspondent Jennifer Griffin broadcast live in the midst of a Hezbollah rocket attack in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.
Fox anchor Shepard Smith and correspondent Jennifer Griffin broadcast live in the midst of a Hezbollah rocket attack in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. (Associated Press)

Greg Mitchell, a columnist for Editor & Publisher, writes: "While it's not surprising that nearly every editorial page in the U.S. has offered support for Israel's right to retaliate against Hamas and Hezbollah, it's a disgrace that few have expressed outrage, or at least condemnation, over the extent of death and destruction in and around Beirut -- and the attacks on the country's infrastructure, which harms most citizens of that country."

There is no shortage of rhetorical fire within the region. A columnist for the Lebanese paper Daily Star complained that Western media reports "dilute the brutality of the Israeli onslaught" as "a prophylactic against the inevitable charges of 'anti-Semitism' and resultant drops in advertising revenues."

Even stories about the evacuation of Westerners from Lebanon have drawn partisan fire. Electronic Intifada, a Web site that "strives to bring the Palestinian narrative front and center," says: "On Tuesday, when at least 35 Lebanese were killed . . . we had the BBC's Ben Brown in Beirut giving a blow-by-blow account of every facet of the evacuation of foreign nationals in general and British nationals in particular. If anyone doubted the racism of our Western media, here it was proudly on display. The BBC apparently considers their Beirut reporter's first duty to find out what meals HMS Gloucester's chef will be preparing for the evacuees. Lebanese and Palestinian civilians die unnoticed by the Western media (though not by the Arab channels) while we learn of onboard sleeping arrangements on the ship bound for Cyprus."

The Lebanese and Palestinian casualties are hardly "unnoticed" by the media, but in a war of a thousand images, those with strong feelings can always complain that pictures and descriptions of the war are unfair to their side. The challenge for journalists is to temper the heart-rending images of suffering with balanced and skeptical reporting.

Entertaining but Not News

"Access Hollywood" apparently needs a refresher course in journalism.

The entertainment show--which just happens to be owned by NBC, Katie Couric's former network -- stirred up a bogus controversy Friday with what amounted to a swipe at the incoming CBS anchor.

A story on its Web site about journalists who have braved incoming missiles in Israel and Lebanon, as well as covered other wars, closed by asking: "The big question remains: what about Katie?" The piece said she "told 'Access Hollywood' that at this point, she would not venture into the Middle East hot spot. 'I think the situation there is so dangerous, and as a single parent with two children, that's something I won't be doing,' Katie said."

The problem: That comment--which was never aired--was made in May, and it was about Iraq, not the Middle East. In fact, Couric made the remark right after a bomb killed two CBS crew members and badly wounded correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

What's more, the story -- which spread to a number of Web sites -- left out Couric's comments to television critics a week ago when asked about the Middle East. "Of course I would want to be there," Couric said, although decisions would have to be made "on a case-by-case basis."

After CBS complained, the piece was corrected late in the day, with this tagline: " 'Access Hollywood' regrets that the earlier version of this story was misleading."

Blogs for the Record

Liberal bloggers ripped the New York Times last week for reporting that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had "chastised Democrats" for "taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects."

The bloggers, including Atrios and Daily Kos, put up transcripts that they said showed the New York senator was criticizing Republicans, not Democrats. Days later, the paper ran an editor's note that said: "The opening sentence of the article and the headline were based on a misinterpretation of a passage in her speech in which she first referred to the Democrats' agenda in the Senate and then went on to criticize the actions of the Republican majority in Congress."

Howard Kurtz hosts "Reliable Sources," CNN's weekly media program.


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