Sunday, November 24, 2002

Lou’s corner

This week, ombudsman Lou Gelfand addresses the issue of bias in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. The column appears to have been pulled from the website, but here’s what remains:

Lou Gelfand: Coverage of West Bank hostilities leaves some readers seeing red
Israeli and Palestinian loyalists agreed last week that the Star Tribune's coverage is biased. For different reasons, of course.

I love that language of moral equivalence. Change it slightly and you can see how bizarre it is.

Lou Gelfand: Coverage of Final Solution leaves some readers seeing red
Jewish and NAZI loyalists agreed last week that the Star Tribune's coverage is biased. For different reasons, of course.

Let’s take this a little further. Here’s a quote from the The Star Tribune’s assistant managing editor, Roger Buoen, earlier this year:

We also take extra care to avoid the term “terrorist” in articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute.

Applying that same philosophy to another era, we get:

We also take extra care to avoid the term “genocide” in articles about the Jewish-NAZI conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute.

Eric Olsen took apart a similar argument used by NPR:

Sadly, rather than appearing neutral, which may or may not be their actual goal, NPR appears to favor the Palestinians because there is no definition in any language on the face of the earth that doesn't conclude that ‘terrorism’ is the purposeful killing of noncombatants to frighten said populace into changing policies the ‘terrorists’ don't like. When one appears to be bending over backwards to achieve ‘neutrality’ and said ‘neutrality’ requires contortions, evasions and moral blinders to be maintained, that very ‘neutrality’ becomes evidence of the opposite.

There is no moral equivalence between those who desire to live in peaceful co-existence with their neighbors and those who wish to “drive them into the sea” because of their religion and ethnicity. The inability to recognize the distinction is strong evidence of bias, or worse.

UPDATE: Lou's column is back online.

UPDATE: Here's an Opinion Journal from February making much the same point.

the Minneapolis Star Tribune is willing to call al Qaeda a terrorist organization. But if you murder only Jews, you are not a terrorist--at least in the eyes of those who edit Minnesota's largest newspaper. We wish we were making this up, but it's right there in yesterday's column by Star Tribune ombudsman Lou Gelfand.

Front-page graphic detail of the rape of an 8-year-old
Mike Needs, ombudsman for The Akron Beacon Journal, reports that:

[S]everal readers thought the Akron Beacon Journal crossed [The boundary line that separates reality reporting and reader sensibilities] with a Nov. 16 front-page story that described the rape of an 8-year-old Akron girl. The information provided was far too detailed and far too unnecessary, they said.

One reader wrote: “I am completely outraged at your reporting of the most private details of the young girl's rape. You have moved beyond the realm of decency and human compassion.”

Needs doesn’t say if the girl was named in the article, but regardless her friends and acquaintances will be able to figure out who she is. The Beacon Journal’s story seems to fit into a modern trend of providing more detail about rapes under the rationale of removing “stigma.” Or, as another reader said:

...newspapers need more reporting on rape, not less. “Maybe the publication of such details will assist in educating the public as to the reality of rape as a power/dominance matter rather than a sexual one.”

There are two problems with that argument. First, rape is not merely a “power/dominance matter rather than a sexual one.”’s Bob Steele quotes from author Helen Benedict’s Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes:

Rape is best characterized as torture that uses sex as a weapon. Like a torturer, the rapist uses sexual acts to dominate, humiliate, and terrorize the victim," Benedict writes.

"To deny the role of sexual humiliation in rape is to deny victims the horror of what they have been through. As long as people have any sense of privacy about sexual acts and the human body, rape will, therefore, carry a stigma, not necessarily a stigma that blames the victim for what happened to her, but a stigma that links her name irrevocably with an act of intimate humiliation."

"To name a rape victim is to guarantee that whenever somebody hears her name, that somebody will picture her in the act of being sexually tortured. To expose a rape victim to this without her consent is nothing short of punitive."

Second, while it may be courageous for a 24-year-old victim to come forward with her story, an eight-year-old lacks the maturity to make such a decision. Publishing the graphic details of the young girl’s rape does little to remove stigma, and links “her name irrevocably with an act of intimate humiliation.”

A reader sums it up best. “The Beacon Journal has merely added to the continual degradation of our societal norms. . .”

No comments:

Post a Comment