Sunday, June 9, 2002

Anti-Israeli Bias

Gareth Parker addresses his complaint to OBG about the ABC's anti-Israeli bias.

OBG notes that bias in the media is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the reporting is accurate. For example, the New York Times shouldn't publish fiction by Joseph Stalin's propagandists writing under the nom de plume Walter Duranty. Nevertheless, a thriving marketplace of ideas is essential to a free society, even when those ideas are clearly wrongheaded.

The problem is when there is a breakdown in the market. One way this can happen is through government ownership of the means of communication. Of the major English language government-owned broadcasters -- ABC, BBC and CBC – all three suffer from anti-Israeli bias, as does the western press, in general. Another way is when there is no competition. Many American cities no longer have competing newspapers, so the local paper monopolizes the coverage of the news, effectively shutting out alternative views.

Which brings us to the left-leaning Minneapolis Star Tribune, which rejects use of the word “terrorism” to describe sending human-bombs into crowded pizza parlors in Israel. Managing Editor Pam Fine explains, “This helps us avoid labels that might suggest we’re taking sides...” Not surprisingly, this prime example of cranial-rectal impaction has generated some criticism.

The Star Tribune employs an ombudsman. His name is Lou Gelfand and as Star Tribune reader Steve Meyer explains:

Every Sunday I read his column and he makes me spitting mad! His evasions and occasional halfhearted apologies for the paper's slanted coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are the worst... Is Lou Gelfand an ombudsman or an apologist?

Poor Lou seems genuinely puzzled as to why he receives so many more phone calls from readers on the right than on the left, a phenomenon he attributes to "a sort of cult thinking based on The Washington Times and stories that, sooner or later -- usually sooner -- are on talk radio...” He asks “Why is the political thinking on the left not as perverted or extreme as it is on the right?”

OBG suggests that Lou start by asking, "When is a terrorist not a terrorist?"

Sunday, June 2, 2002

Grammar controversy

Reader M. Brocklehurst supports OmbudsGod in the who vs. whom grammar controversy. A self-described grammar guru, she advises, “Tell them to go and split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition or best of all get a life.” Ms. Brocklehurst addresses the “whom boom” in her soon-to-be-published tome, “Everyday Vital English, A Grammar for the 21st Century,” which she describes as a “delightful read.”

Mrs. OBG recommends that OBG take Ms. Brocklehurst’s advice and stick to The OmbudsGod’s core mission. Otherwise, OBG will be dealing with such unanswerable questions as the one Mrs. OBG already has posed: “Why aren’t they called ‘Ombudspersons?’”

OBG currently is investigating complaints relating to anti-Israeli bias involving the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Minneapolis Star Tribune ombudsman, Lou Gelfand. OBG observes that anti-Israeli bias is pervasive throughout the media and that, as a rule, ombudsmen have failed to fully address the issue. Additional reader input on this and other concerns is encouraged.

OBG sends special thanks to Tim Blair for linking to this site. Keep the hits coming, Tim!

Saturday, June 1, 2002

Ombudsman, newspaper

A reader asks, “To whom do you complain when the ombudsgod forgets the English remnant objective case interrogative pronoun?” He is, of course, referring to my use of the conversational who instead of the stilted whom in my first post. OmbudsGod is reminded of why he chose to major in economics instead of English as an undergraduate.

Nevertheless, alleged grammatical violations by OmbudsGod may be reported to the Word Police.

A newspaper ombudsman, usually a veteran reporter or editor, serves as an external spokesperson for the public and an internal critic for the newspaper. According to guidelines adopted in 1982 by the Organization of Newspaper Ombudsmen (ONO), the ombudsman's duties are to: (1) represent the reader who has complaints, suggestions, questions or compliments; (2) investigate all complaints and recommend corrective action when warranted; (3) alert the newspaper to all complaints; (4) serve as an in-house critic; (5) make speeches or write to the public about the newspaper's policies, attitudes and operations; and (6) defend the newspaper publicly or privately when warranted.

To perform those functions, ombudsmen write newspaper columns, give speeches, circulate memoranda within the staff, and distribute questionnaires to persons mentioned in news stories.

The editorial independence of the ombudsman is a subject of debate in the newspaper field. Some believe that the person in this position should be exempt from contributing editorially to the newspaper for which he works, to preserve his neutrality in serving the interests of both the newspaper and the public; others point to the prohibitive expense of hiring a full-time ombudsman.

Use of the ombudsman in the United States came into existence only recently, the first newspaper ombudsman program having been established in 1967.

Who do you complain to when a newspaper’s coverage is terribly biased and the ombudsman is even more biased than the newspaper? The OmbudsGod!

My thanks to Tim Blair for the inspiration.