Yaakov Katz, Israel correspondent for USA Today and military correspondent and defense analyst for The Jerusalem Post, discussed portrayals of Israel in the media on Thursday evening.
In his talk, which took place at the Hillel House at 328 A St., Katz said that airtime and space are two of the biggest problems with media.
On the radio, there are usually seven minutes of news, giving each news story half a minute of airtime. There is an average of 400 words per article in the newspaper.
“The average news segment [on TV] is one minute and thirty seconds. That is about 250 words per story. You can imagine when you are working in the media, you are relying on the images that accompany your text,” Katz said.
Katz argued that both headlines and pictures grab the reader’s interest. Quoting the colloquialism, “a picture is worth a thousand words,“ Katz questioned whether readers and viewers were getting the full story.
“You’re only seeing what’s in the frame, not what’s behind the frame,” Katz said.
One of the examples that Katz used was a picture of Jewish-American Tuvia Grossman, who had been incorrectly identified as a Palestinian in 2000. In the photograph, a badly beaten and bloody Grossman is crouching underneath a club-wielding Israeli police officer.
“This photo suggests that Israelis equal aggressor and Palestinian equals victim. The cop was actually protecting the boy. [The photograph] creates a perception that was not the truth,” Katz said.
Katz told the audience how words and headlines can also create different perceptions. For example, using the word “settlement” instead of “neighborhood” can create a heavy implication, he said.
Katz stated that the BBC had referred to Gilo as a settlement.
“Gilo is a neighborhood, not a settlement,” said Katz, “Many people will tell you that settlements shouldn’t have been built. Eight to nine years ago, CNN set a policy about Gilo, saying it was a neighborhood, but BBC called it a settlement, which is a very loaded word.”
The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about an Israeli TV show, “Arab Labor.” The headline read “Meet the Palestinian Seinfeld,“ when in fact, the show is about Israeli-Arabs.
“Israeli-Arabs don’t describe themselves as Palestinian,” Katz said. “More accurate would have been to title [the article] ‘The Israeli-Arab Seinfeld.‘ Most people take headlines away when reading the newspaper.“
Katz also said that the Internet has created a strange reality. The Internet enables people to follow and track stories of interest; it also makes it more difficult to keep secrets.
“The Internet has created a reality that journalists don’t care about accuracy, but speed. That creates flawed perceptions,” Katz said.
Students who attended Katz’s presentation were very interested in having the opportunity to hear about the different perspectives used in today’s media.
“I really enjoyed listening to his perspective on pictures and how much of a difference they can make in sending out the message. Pictures tell a lot,” said Mahrad Enayati, a fifth-year senior sociology major.
Gena Craemer, a sophomore environmental science major agreed, adding that Katz’s argument that certain words create specific perspectives was truly eye opening. Craemer said she felt that opportunities like Katz’s presentation were very important for students.
“Knowing what is going on on all sides … [helps] you open your mind and shape your thoughts and perspectives,” Craemer said.
In a private interview with The Aggie, Katz gave several suggestions as to how students can avoid being uninformed.
“You go online, do a Google search, and within seconds you can get all the information that you need. For example, Israel, which is what I came to talk about here today,” Katz said, “You can get the whole history fairly quickly and at the same time study all of the different sides, all of the different versions, and all of the different directions in order to try and get a good perspective.”
“This has to do with anything, the Iraq War, what is happening in Sudan, in Darfur, and the American elections. [The information] at our fingertips, it’s just a matter of finding the time and the energy to access it,” Katz said.
MEGAN ELLIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.