In the past few days I’ve come across various stories from national and international news outlets with headlines blazing that Pope Benedict XVI has “attacked” or “spoken out against” Iran’s growing anti-Semitism. Yet almost every publication and wire service that has been carrying the story lack a single direct quote from the Pope or an official statement from the Vatican with regards to the Pope stepping up criticism on Iran or its president.
To the contrary, most of the stories on the Pope’s supposed opposition to Iran’s anti-Semitism are laced with quotes from officials of the World Jewish Congress that had met with the Pope. These Jewish officials came out of their meetings with the Pope and stated that the Pope said “Iran was an issue of big concern for him”. Specifically Maram Stern, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, said after his meeting with the Pope: “We thanked the Holy Father for everything he did for the Jewish people, and more importantly what he will do”. The lack of direct attribution from the Pope and the Vatican makes me question the validity of this story all together. As a journalist who reads this story, I question whether the Pope is really concerned about anti-Semitism arising from Iran? Or is this another classic example of poor journalism where lazy reporters have failed to follow up and check their facts as well as gotten the proper attribution from the Vatican? What ever happened to telling both sides of the story in a fair and balanced way?
Stories like this that only have one side quoted—in this case the Jews, lead opponents of Israel and anti-Semites to conjure up ridiculous conspiracy stories that the Jews “supposedly control the media”. At the same when there is no attribution from the Pope directly, his opinion which may be newsworthy is never told. Even if the Vatican did not want to make an official statement about the Pope’s stance on this issue, the reporters who covered the story had a responsibility to indicate that. But of course, we have no idea if they did this as their stories lack this information. Undoubtedly Iran’s vast propaganda machine can now easily poke holes in this story by claiming that the Pope has not condemned Iran in any way for anti-Semitism because there are no quotes attributed to him.
Shame on the journalists and shame on the editors who let us down with this story!
Here is just one of the many examples of the poor journalism regarding this issue: