April 11, 2002
Thin Blue Media Line
Accurately portraying Israel in the news is all in a day's work for the Friedsons.
Felice and Michael Friedson call their news production company The Media Line, Ltd. (TML), but a limited media line is exactly what they are trying to get around. Dedicated to an accurate portrayal of Israel in the news, the Friedsons work to provide both sides of the story.
In early February, TML opened its own broadcast studio in Jerusalem after years of broadcasting from makeshift quarters in a hotel lobby. Now the nonprofit company has a home for its multiple projects, a list of journalistic endeavors that keeps expanding.
Since the late 1980s, the Friedsons have produced a radio talk show concerning Israel and the Middle East, first broadcasting in South Florida and later in Israel. TML also serves as liaison to foreign journalists, giving reporters background and access to informed sources who can present a clear picture of Israeli political reality.
Their Web site provides updated news and other resources for journalists and others who need accurate information. In addition, they produce news stories and interviews for television, which they distribute directly to local stations, bypassing networks and aiming directly for "America's Heartland."
"We're not saying, 'It's not fair.' What we're doing is filling in the gaps," says Michael Friedson, who serves as director of media services (Felice Friedson is president-CEO). "The media problem is not one of commission of evil against Israel. It's a matter of omission. We have to get information to people who aren't necessarily looking for it," he says. That often includes the journalists assigned to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Those journalists are often hesitant to trust or even contact official Israeli sources, according to Michael Friedson, but TML can often put them in touch with accurate, informed sources. "We're Americans," he says, and by remaining unbiased in their news presentation, TML gains the trust of journalists looking for stories.
"I can't say it enough -- we don't play games with the news. We are a professional media organization. We meet and exceed all journalistic standards," he says.
TML staff includes David Zev Harris, a Jerusalem Post correspondant and former BBC reporter, and Michael Widlanski, senior analyst of Arab language media and a former reporter for The New York Times.
Some of the people who are not necessarily looking for Israeli news are the Evangelical Christians who are some of TML's most regular audience. In 2001, when the Friedsons attended the National Religious Broadcasting Convention, they became the first Jewish media group to do so, and are now broadcasting to Christian media outlets across the U.S. They have worked with Pat Robertson and produced news segments for "The 700 Club."
"We wish the Jewish community would be as unconditionally supportive as the Christians have been," says Felice Friedson.
Some of the stories TML covers hit members of its staff too close to home. "When attacks occur in Israel, people don't hear about the wounded. They hear numbers. They hear deaths, and so-and-so was 'lightly wounded.' Lightly wounded can mean someone lost an eye or a limb," says Felice Friedson.
When a suicide bomber attacked a cafe one block away from their new studio, TML filmed the devastation, not just the bloodstains and debris. Those images were beamed to thousands of homes through local U.S. news programs.
The message of unbiased news from Israel is simple, according to TML. "Israel can stand on its own, even with its flaws," says Felice Friedson. "Report the events, and report the context, too."
For more information about The Media Line, Ltd., visit www.themedialine.org or call (858) 523-0927.