Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Trust Is Broken

Consider these examples:
1. Media attention in the Middle East has focused on violent upprisings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The UN Relief and Works Agency reports 432 deaths occurred in these areas from December 1987 to March 1989.

But have media adequately placed the violence in context with situations in other parts of the world? For instance, during the same period, 512 homicides occurred in Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital!

2. Much air time and ink are devoted to the increasing Japanese investment in the United States. Not stressed is other nations with large direct investment in the United States: Britain, Canada and the Netherlands. Or large investments of the U.S. in other countries.

3. "Almost nothing was said about the approximately two million Cambodians who died between April 1975 and the end of 1977 as a result of actions taken by their Communist rulers," says self-styled media watchdog Reed Irvine, founder of Accuracy in Media.

"The information was available to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the networks. But in 1976, while this slaughter was taking place, the Post ran only nine news stories that even alluded to the human-rights problems in Cambodia. At the same time, it chose to run 58 stories about human rights in Chile. Even worse was the Times. It published four Cambodian and 66 Chilean human-rights stories."

4. A Washington Post reporter contacted the Washington embassy of a certain African nation about the country's troop strength; an official there did not know. The reporter guessed and, in an article, reported the number of troops as 18,000. The next day the reporter back and told him the figure had been found: 18,000.

5. Some time ago a well-known newsweekly ran a piece on the health risks of overexposure to sunlight. But a scientist interviewed by the newsweekly told The Plain Truth the article extrapolated the data too far in a section on commercial tanning parlors, thus potentially misleading readers.

Of the delicate relationship between the press and the public, one newspaper publisher says, "Once you break that bond of trust... you can never put it back together."

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