Letter to the Editor: Focusing on false equivalences distorts reality, distracts from real issues

By JAMES ANDERSON / In an August 1 editorial for the Gateway Journalism Review, William Freivogel denounced the “false equivalences” imposed upon Israel in its latest assault on the Gaza Strip. Freivogel’s selective focus on equivalences distracts from what is really at issue, exculpating the US from its role in enabling more than 1,800 deaths and the displacement of more than 300,000 in Gaza since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8. “Children continue to bear the brunt of the crisis,” too, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs explained in a report released August 3, “with 373 killed and at least 2,744 injured.” “Never mind that it was Hamas firing missiles into Israel that started the violence, or that Hamas places its weapons near civilians, schools and hospitals, or that Hamas vows to drive Israelis into the sea, or that Israel warns civilians when it is about to bomb,” Freivogel argued. Through omission, Freivogel ensured readers would pay little mind to the fact “Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing five Hamas members on July 7,” prior to Hamas firing its first rockets in 19 months, as Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky reminded those who attend to reality.

Hard choices for journalists covering Ferguson

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEOL / The police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Mo. and the looting that followed are presenting hard decisions for journalists covering this small suburban town that never expected to be an international dateline. How should the media cover this explosive story of race, rioting and alleged police brutality that unfolds in a sea of angry demonstrators and a Twittersphere of information and disinformation? Here are some of the issues.

Skeletons in the closet? Uncovering embarrassing Wiki edits by Pentagon, Congress

A recent movement to track in real-time edits government organizations anonymously make to Wikipedia has also turned up deep archives of changes made dating back more than 10 years. For instance, thanks to Jari Bakken, lead developer of a Norwegian parliamentary watchdog account, a database of 1,843 edits made at Pentagon IP addresses from 2004-2010 is now publically available.…

Clemons leaves St. Louis for Houston

Tracy Clemons, a multimedia journalist at KSDK in St. Louis, has been named to a similar position at KTRK in Houston. He had been at KSDK since August 2012. Clemons tweeted July 21 that he would leave St. Louis at the end of the week. He previously worked for stations at Shreveport, La., and Charlottesville, Va. He graduated…

False equivalencies undermine Gaza debate

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / As a liberal academic and a former liberal editorial writer, it is painful to watch as many liberal academics and a few liberal journalists impose false equivalencies upon Israel. Israel is just like the Nazis, some suggest, including most recently the African National Congress. Israel is just like South Africa during Apartheid, others say. Israel should be boycotted just like South Africa say those who support the “BDS” movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. And recently, with the terrible violence in Israel and the Gaza strip, the blame Israel game has reached new heights. Never mind that it was Hamas firing missiles into Israel that started the violence, or that Hamas places its weapons near civilians, schools and hospitals, or that Hamas vows to drive Israelis into the sea, or that Israel warns civilians when it is about to bomb. Israel is far from perfect. But Israel is not South Africa during Apartheid. Israeli law’s recognition of the rights of Arab citizens is significant and does not compare with Apartheid. Nor is Israel exterminating Palestinians. Any suggestion that it is acting like Nazi Germany is uninformed to say the least.

Look before you link

By BEN LYONS / On July 19, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote that “Hamas sometimes seems to have more support on certain college campuses in America or Europe than within Gaza,” in a column titled “Who’s right and wrong in the Middle East.” If you read the online version of his column, the first link (under the text “on certain college campuses…”) would send you to a Washington Post article on the American Studies Association’s backing an academic boycott of Israeli universities in December 2013.

On Twitter, a few readers asked Kristof about the link. Said Chase Madar (a lawyer and journalist, according to his bio): “The article that you link to about the ASA #BDS resolution does not even mention Hamas, by the way.”

Kristof’s reply was a stunner. He said “[I] write the column, and someone else chooses links later, so don’t read too much into the links except as further resources.” For those following the exchange, this became the bigger story.

Transparency bots hint at better uses for news algorithms

By BEN LYONS / Monitoring Wikipedia edits made from Russian government addresses, an automated tool caught controversial changes in the wake of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crash in Ukraine this July. Someone at a state-run TV and radio network, VGTRK, anonymously removed mentions of Russian Federation-sourced missiles, swapping in Ukrainian soldiers as the culprits.

Homeward bound and over the top

By SCOTT LAMBERT / Media coverage of Lebron James’ decision to return to Cleveland was over the top, but that’s what sports media do. Sports reporters have a difficult job. They are often dismissed by “real” reporters as the people over in the toy room, not really doing real journalism, just reporting about games people play. They work in a world where many of the fans, especially in today’s world where press conferences are often available to fans via online stream, often have the same expertise as the reporters. Thus, sports journaists must always work hard to stay one step ahead of their audience.