Jewish Journal

Can journalists really be objective?

by Noga Gur-Arieh

February 20, 2013 | 11:10 am

Journalists are perceived as the most solid people for the presentation of neutral news, both to the public and to themselves. But as neutral as we wish to be, opinion is inevitable. It finds its way out there, even if you are writing a plain and simple news report.

This is all a part of Media Framing, which I referred to last week. This theory basically claims that there is no such thing as objective news. Behind every news publication, via printed news, online, or television, lays a line of choices, made by the reporter, the editor and sometimes- the system. This is an opinion blog, obviously, but in my other job, as a correspondent for a local newspaper, I've recently noticed the little things I do, unconsciously, which put my personal opinions in the article, without the words actually being written.

I have recently come upon an interesting theory by Izhak Roe'e, which presented a unique way of looking at news reports. Roe'e claimed that the average news report often portrays a plotline which is familiar with the fairytales and fictional stories we often read as children. Those plotlines portray values we were taught. A news report is often similar to a fiction story, by having a clear plotline, including an opening line, a conflict and a lesson for us to learn. Sometimes, a suggestion for further treatment of the subject is added.

There are several rather recognizable plotlines that appear on Israel-related articles. These repeating plotlines, conveying certain massages, are the framing each media source chooses to use. Familiar themes which often appear on articles regarding Israel are "us against the world", "good vs. bad", "strong against weak". Those themes can be used both ways, depending on the tone of the article, and the side which its writer picks. If those themes sound familiar to you, it's because they are. Those plotlines are used in many stories we know. "Us against the world", for instance, reminds me of Romeo and Juliet. "Strong against weak" reminds me of the story of David and Goliath. It may strike your imagination in a different way, but the bottom line is that those new plotlines, which resemble a fictional story, attract the readers.

The framing of news, using familiar somewhat legendary themes, not only attracts us to the article, but also plays with our minds a little bit. Reading an article which tells how the UN Human Rights Council examines Israel instead of Syria, makes us see Israel as the poor kid in class, whom everybody picks on. As readers, we tend to feel sorry for the kid. The same effect can be reached in an article which tells the sad story of the Palestinians living in the West Bank, who after constant suffering and ignorance by the Israeli government, had to turn to the UN for help. By using the same theme on the same subject, but on different sides of the story, I just showed how easy framing can be.

As I said before, the only solution is to read several newspapers every day, and by doing that, make an informed, more objective decision regarding major issues. This solution is unrealistic because unless you are a Communication of Media major, I bet you have more important things to do with your time. I hope that the information I provide here will at least make us all more aware of manipulations we often experience when turning on the TV.  This may seem like nothing, but it may be a huge step towards more neutral news.

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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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