Saturday, April 18, 2009

What is Objective Reporting?

I think Oliver Kamm has it right here.
Now, Jeremy Bowen was not "telling the truth": he was venturing a particular interpretation of the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have numerous and fundamental differences with it. But it's important that it not be left to Robert Fisk to say what I am about to say.

On all that I have seen, Bowen's reporting from the Middle East has been informed and scrupulous. The judgement against him is an unwarranted slur on his professionalism and a threat to the notion of objective journalism.

This issue has nothing to do with the historical or current rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It concerns the responsibility - not even merely the entitlement - of a senior and experienced journalist to provide explanation and context for what he reports on. Objective reporting of international conflict doesn't mean that you split the difference between the protagonists. That wasn't how William Russell of this newspaper reported the Crimean War. It wasn't how George Orwell considered the Spanish Civil War. It wasn't how honest journalists such as Penny Marshall of ITN and Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian reported the Bosnian war. Objective reporting means that, while being aware of your partial information, you describe the world as you see it. This is the responsibility that Bowen has, and it's one that he has discharged.


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