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Sunday, October 19, 2003

MEDIA MATTERS: Mahathir's full speech vs. AP quotes

Meryl Yourish exposes the difference between what we get from the AP and what someone has actually said. For instance, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. A must-read.

Also important, don't miss Bret Stephens' "Why the Media Botches It" at JPost, where he explains three competing interpretative frameworks operating in the media vis a vis Israel:
Consider a hypothetical example: A Palestinian suicide bomber detonates himself in a Jerusalem bus and kills 20. Hamas takes responsibility.

A reporter from the "Occupation" school is dispatched to write the story. He discovers that the bomber is from the Dehaishe refugee camp near Bethlehem; his family was originally from Ramle; his father used to work construction in Israel but has been unable to get to his job due to IDF closures. As for the bomber himself, he had a talent for carpentry but never found a job. He was recruited by Hamas after his brother was shot by the IDF; he hoped that his own martyrdom would bring honor and money to his parents and nine siblings.

Then there's the reporter from the "cycle of violence" school. She describes the scene of the bombing in detail; she interviews the families of the bereaved. In paragraph four, she notes that a leading Hamas spokesman had recently been killed in an IAF helicopter attack and that the group had vowed revenge. In paragraph nine, she writes that the Israeli security cabinet has convened in a late-night session to weigh its response.

Finally, we have our reporter from the "Arab rejectionist" camp. He describes the scene of the bombing, interviews the families of the bereaved, attends the funerals. Little attention is paid to the personal circumstances of the bomber. Perhaps it will be noted that the bomber's brother was killed by the IDF while attempting to plant a mine on the road to a nearby settlement. Perhaps, too, the family expects to receive money from abroad. There's a story there about Saudi funding of terror.

Plainly I'm engaging in a bit of caricature. My point simply is to illustrate how different interpretive frameworks put reporters on the trail of different sets of facts. All of these facts may be true. The question is, which of them are significant?