Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Take no side, tell all sides"

That's from Reuters Handbook of Journalism, the bible for its correspondents.  Here's the admonition in its entirety:
As Reuters journalists, we never identify with any side in an issue, a conflict or a dispute. Our text and visual stories need to reflect all sides, not just one. This leads to better journalism because it requires us to stop at each stage of newsgathering and ask ourselves “What do I know?” and “What do I need to know?” In reporting a takeover bid, for example, it should be obvious that the target company must be given an opportunity to state their position. Similarly in a political dispute or military conflict, there are always at least two sides to consider and we risk being perceived as biased if we fail to give adequate space to the various parties.
This objectivity does not always come down to giving equal space to all sides. The perpetrator of an atrocity or the leader of a fringe political group arguably warrants less space than the victims or mainstream political parties. We must, however, always strive to be scrupulously fair and balanced. Allegations should not be portrayed as fact; charges should not be conveyed as a sign of guilt. We have a duty of fairness to give the subjects of such stories the opportunity to put their side.
We must also be on guard against bias in our choice of words. Words like “claimed” or “according to” can suggest we doubt what is being said. Words like “fears” or “hopes” might suggest we are taking sides. Verbs like rebut or refute (which means to disprove) or like fail (as in failed to comment) can imply an editorial judgment and are best avoided. Thinking about language can only improve our writing and our journalism.
And here's a brief Reuters story which flagrantly violates the agency's code of ethics:
Arabs to seek alternatives for stalled peace talks

SIRTE, Libya, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Arab leaders will begin drafting alternatives for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because the current round of talks has stalled, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said on Friday.
"We will meet to formulate the beginning of alternatives within the framework that the negotiations are not bearing fruit," Moussa said after a meeting of the Arab League's peace process follow-up committee in Libya.
"There are no talks at the moment because the position of the Israelis is very, very negative. They are not cooperating in the negotiations," Moussa said.
The committee would meet the Palestinian delegation on Friday night but would not advise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas what he should do next, Moussa said.
Any reflection of the Israeli side of this issue?  Any line space provided to Israeli officials to "put their side", to counter the charges issued by Moussa that the Israeli position is "very negative" or that Israel is "not cooperating in the negotiations"?

Rhetorical questions.

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