The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Journalist’s Responsibility to Tell the Truth

The+Journalist%E2%80%99s+Responsibility+to+Tell+the+Truth
Graphic: Valeria Reyes

In a news broadcast from the night of Nov. 20, NBC Nightly News ran a story detailing the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)’s approach to drone strikes. On the NBC News website, the text under the video reveals the source used in the article: “The IDF giving NBC News clips of drone videos where they say pilots chose to call off strikes because of civilians nearby.” In other words: in a news story about the possible dangers of IDF drone strikes, the main source was IDF footage and pilots.

The ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists states an important set of rules that journalists should follow: “Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.” While pursuing unbiased reporting — the gold standard for journalism — reporters should strive to use the most unbiased sources possible. If you are running a story on the IDF and your source is the IDF, how can you be unbiased? The belief that “truth is the first casualty of war” pervades. Western journalists have a responsibility to broadcast the news without favoring either side.

Some networks are embedding reporters within the IDF, a choice more egregious than simply sourcing material from the force. CNN, ABC and NBC stationed reporters with the troops, who must work by the military’s terms. These terms include being accompanied by a soldier at all times and submitting all materials to the Israeli military for review. While, for example, NBC News claimed that the IDF did not view any finished stories, working alongside one of the main aggressors of a conflict is not a way to prevent bias. Even if only parts of the stories are viewed — a conflict of interest on its own — journalists stationed alongside troops will inevitably develop ties with the soldiers they accompany. How can you be critical of someone who has your life in their hands? Wartime coverage cannot uphold its duty to be unbiased when there are personal connections on one side.

Israel knows that alongside its physical warfare, it is also participating in an information war where it must convince the world, especially the U.S., that its actions are justified. Part of the IDF’s propaganda tactics include releasing videos, some of which were recently revealed to be propagating false claims. These include the now-infamous calendar video, where an IDF soldier claimed a calendar written in Arabic was a shift schedule for Hamas militants, according to NBC News. The importance of journalism as a battleground cannot be understated: while the IDF may be a military organization, that does not mean its words should be taken at face value. In fact, I would argue we should adopt a more critical lens, considering the IDF’s recent propaganda attempts.

As we struggle with the tragedy of the current violence in the Middle East, journalists must strive to provide the most unbiased information possible. In wartime, using footage or information from soldiers from either side is a gross violation of journalistic integrity.

Gaza has virtually no access to electricity or power, according to The Guardian. Citizens of Gaza have fewer and fewer chances to let the world hear their voices. On the other hand, the IDF is the 28th largest military in the world, according to USA Today, with over $3.8 billion in aid from the U.S. In terms of press reception, the IDF clearly has an easier time sharing its side of the story, despite any critical errors. When Western audiences, especially Americans, want to learn about the conflict, they are likely to click the first few links they see on Google, usually mainstream news outlets like NBC, CNN or ABC. These media outlets have a larger reach and amount of resources; with this power, they must be vigilant of whom they choose to give a voice to. I believe that the purpose of journalism is to produce the most impartial work one can. Now, more than ever, journalists must remember their promise and seek to deliver work that is both accurate and thorough in its portrayal of this lopsided conflict.

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About the Contributor
Emma McCartan, Assistant News Editor
Emma McCartan is a sophomore from Guilford, CT majoring in international relations with a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. She has previously served as a staff writer for the News section. On campus, Emma is involved in Model United Nations.

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