Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Poor Judgment of Crying ‘Wolf’ Too Often

CBS Morning News Anchor, Norah O'Donnell
I don’t really pay that much attention to Honest Reporting - a website that is supposedly a watchdog for media bias against Israel. There certainly is enough of it out there to require a watchdog and to be grateful to them for their service.  But sometimes they just go too far. I get spammed by them all the time and I generally just click on delete.

But this morning something caught my eye.  They had a clip of what I am certain was an inadvertent error. They played it up as yet another example of media bias against Israel.

In her report on the CBS Morning News about the massacre in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem she said it took place in a contested religious site in Jerusalem. As any religious Jew knows, Har Nof is not a contested religious site.  We know that because it is a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem… and we religious Jews tend to know the names of the religious neighborhoods there. Har Nof is a very familiar name to us. 

But for those who are not religious Jews… or even Jews, the name Har Nof may as well be Skokie. Especially if they don’t live there. The name is meaningless to them. So when something like this happens in Jerusalem where there are contentious neighborhoods – like Har HaBayis, it is an easy mistake to make.

I am absolutely convinced that this is what happened to Norah O’Donnell, one of the CBS Morning News anchors. She read the news copy that was handed to her. There was no bias on her part… and probably not even the news copy writer’s part.

I usually watch the first 20 minutes of the news program everyday while having breakfast. I've seen her report on Israel numerous times. Norah O’Donnell is no more biased against Israel than I am.

Now it’s true that it was a serious error since it places an entirely different light on the motives behind the attack. Not that it justifies it. Nobody says that (…except for the dancing Palestinians in Gaza and their kindred spirits elsewhere). But it does make the incident just a bit less heinous if one sees legitimate grievances behind it. (Not to me or any decent human being. But to some…)

It is dishonest of Honest Reporting to characterize Norah O’Donnell and CBS as purposely misleading the public about the possible motives of the attackers.

They acknowledge that CBS removed the clip from their archives – probably because of the protest it registered. But they Honest Reporting archived it just to make sure people know about it. Which allows them to make their case about media bias. But in this case they are dead wrong, in my view. 

They ought to stop doing things like that. You can’t cry ‘wolf’ if there aren’t  any real wolves around. If they keep making these kinds of accusations and insinuations they will lose any credibility they may have. That would be a shame. We do need watchdogs to expose media bias.

I therefore think they should make an apology. Or at least remove this particular report from their website.

They may counter by saying that CBS should apologize for their error. Maybe so. But that does not free them to heap scorn upon people that haven’t earned it.

Leaving this report up will show media bias. Not Norah O’Donnell’s.  Not CBS’s. But that of Honest Reporting.