Was There Media Bias in Reporting of Recent Gaza Conflict?  Depends On Who You Ask.

Last week, the Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner, criticized CNN for its “horrendous reporting” on the conflict in Gaza.  Pointing to a series of CNN International Tweets, one of which, showed a picture of an explosion along with the following characters, “rockets raining down on Gaza.”

“It is so one-sided, it is so poorly framed…” the Algemeiner argued.  ”…that one would be tempted to excuse CNN; perhaps the 140 character limit had simply been met. But on further review they had only used 50 of their allotted 140 characters.  Plenty of room still to balance the story. Or perhaps somewhere on their twitter feed they had made mention of the fact that four more rockets had landed in southern Israel just this morning? Nope, no mention of it. Or that 50 had been fired into Israel Wednesday night alone. Nope, no mention of it.”

So was CNN reporting from a pro-Palestinian platform? Not according to the thousands of Tweets we read coming from Palestinian’s inside Gaza City during the conflict.  One in particular, directing her anger squarely on Anderson Cooper, and his reports of,  “missiles coming out of Gaza – not one mention of the ones coming in!”

Honest Reporting, an Israeli NGO that monitors media coverage of the Israeli/Arab conflict, recently released an in-depth report analyzing, “a full year of the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We found that the BBC has a consistent record of portraying Israeli actions in a negative light while increasing sympathy for the Palestinian point of view.”

So, was the BBC was pro-Palestinian, too?  A young Palestinian woman, in response to a BBC report of an overnight exchange of rocket fire, didn’t think so.  She angrily Tweeted her displeasure at the organization’s reporting of the casualties from that particular bombardment; three Israeli’s “killed” – ten Palestinian’s “dead.”  If there was real anti-Israeli sentiment at the BBC, describing Arab’s as merely “dying” while Jews were being “killed” was, most likely, not the best way of displaying it.

I used to live in the West Bank.  I’ve covered the refugee camps in Gaza, been to funerals on both sides, and reported from the center of Intifada’s for an international news agency.  We had a cadre of people working every story with us; producers, camera operators, editors, translators, audio operators and drivers.  We didn’t have Twitter.  Our stories weren’t relegated to spaces on a smart phone.  They were written in long form, re-written, then written again.  And once the script was completed, our story was fact checked.  Then, checked a few more times.  It went through a handful of producers thousands of miles away in comfortable air-conditioned offices in safe buildings, who ran it through a legal department, where every phrase was poured over.  Once it was approved, we tracked it, cut it, fed it to New York and watched it air.  It was a painstaking process, but we had a responsibility to get it right.

Still, after going through all that, there were some who felt we managed to get it all wrong.  There always was.  And there always will be – regardless of the story and despite the news agency reporting it.

About the American Dream and the Pursuit of Happiness.

As a Floridian in the last year, I have been subjected to a toxic dose of political chemicals set on deluge. The season of television, radio, print, text, billboards, phone calls, doorbells, mail, and e-mail advertisements laced with political propaganda relentlessly flooding the senses and sensibilities of the hapless registered potential voter have all mercifully, for now, come to an end.

The campaign storm fueled by millions of interest stained dollars and the urgency to secure political clout blew a path down America’s main street like a tornado, twisting facts and ‘untruths’.

The democratic process to provide representatives of the people for a government by the people has unfortunately evolved into a ‘war’ of politicians using political messages as weapons, battleground states as the arena, and voters as both the prize and the collateral damage.

What is the result of all this? A country divided?

The media, a facilitator, and a beneficiary of the process would like to highlight our differences. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks we will be witness to a new wave of messages where the unity of our people will be questioned. But I believe, we as Americans have an answer already.

Despite the passionate arguments between red and blue, and regardless of our race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, gender, tax bracket, or area of residence, we are all Americans. Differences of opinions not differences of citizenship. WE ALL care for our children, those having a rough time, and for those who serve to protect our freedoms. And like the doctor heals, the teacher teaches, and the contractor builds houses, we all contribute to the health and to the progress of our community.

Advances in technology allow for the rapid transfer of information, so much so, that the supply is outpacing the capacity of the receiver. This sets up a competition for our attention. The resulting distractions can make us lose focus on the things that really do matter, the things that we all care about as a whole. Our time is precious and I believe that when we fix our gaze on what is real, we are compelled to act. Most recent examples of this can be highlighted by America’s reaction to hurricane Sandy. When fellow citizens are found in need, our altruistic instincts as a people kicks in. Apathy can be no match to compassion when we are family to those who are suffering.

So, in the coming days, when the media is giving us the message that we are a divided nation, don’t believe the hype, know that we are all one nation, related and bonded by the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness.

Ugliness of human trafficking is coming out of the shadows

Human trafficking was, until recently, the biggest nonconversation we had. Hushed-toned talk, relegated to dark corners and dingy alleyways, helped this human-rights crisis flourish below the radar. But dialogue about the fastest-growing crime on the planet, with more people enslaved now than any time in human history, is finally beginning to resonate.

So why the long silence?

Human trafficking is uncomfortable and uncomprehended. “Stranger danger” is a devil we know. A phrase we understand. We talk to our kids about kidnapping and date rape, thinking of the villain as singular — a lone anomaly that strikes — an incident to be avoided. Not the beginning of a nightmare to a life of bondage.

But if we realized our kids were being exported, while others were being imported, we would have cried foul sooner and much louder. It’s a difficult concept to wrap our heads around. How do you explain to the concerned volunteer who canvasses neighborhoods, lakes and wooded areas for a missing person to consider searching shipping containers instead?

Domestic abuse and homelessness are easier stories for the media to tell. Human trafficking? Not so simple.

It’s modern-day slavery manifested into forced labor, with prostitution, immigration, child abuse, smuggling, drugs, money laundering and organized crime all thrown together. A local reporter recently told me, “It’s a complicated, time-consuming topic. It would take an entire newscast just to explain what it is.”

Think it doesn’t happen here? Think again. All 50 states have reported incidents, and Florida is one of the top three destination points for trafficking worldwide. More than 20 million people are trafficked across the world with almost a quarter of them enslaved for sex.

It’s a $30 billion a year corruption that touches every one of us whether we know it or not. Get your nails done and it may be from a technician who’s not there by choice. The bracelet you just bought may have been made using a 10-year-old boy with little to no hope for tomorrow. Recently, a 14-year-old girl from Cocoa Beach was discovered, drugged and held captive by a man advertising her online as an escort.

We live in a celebrity-obsessed society that dominates what’s relevant. If there’s not a pretty face telling us we should worry, then there must not be anything to worry about.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and George Clooney are all well-known advocates for familiar social causes. But human trafficking is so buried most aren’t aware of the celebrities who help give it a voice: Mira Sorvino and Jada Pinkett Smith.

We know more about abused animals, thanks to Sara McLaughlin’s commercials, than we do about Ricky Martin’s testimony on human trafficking in front of Congress. And while it’s helpful for big names to bring insight to big problems we may not otherwise notice, it’s troubling so many wait for their favorite famous face to tell them where to focus.

It’s good news this discussion is becoming broader. Nonetheless, I’m concerned about our notorious short-mindedness. Our intolerance is often too temporary. Outraged one minute, apathetic the next. We jump on bandwagons because it’s cool to be part of a trendy subject.

But this is not merely a hot topic. It’s human beings entangled in daily horror.

Consider this well-known quotation: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So what can you do? Talk about it. Your voice, added to others, helps bring human trafficking out of the shadows and into the light.

Welcome to the conversation. It will save lives. It will give voice to the voiceless and our collective persistence will bring freedom — one life at a time.

“Children’s Hands”

News on Modern Day Slavery

“Children’s Hands” by GMB Akash

“It shows eight year old Munna who works in a rickshaw factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The boy earns about 500 taka (7 U.S. dollars) a month, working 10 hours a day. When production often stops due to lack of electricity, he has time to play. It is common in Bangladesh for children of poor parents to work in various hazardous and labor-intensive workplaces to support their families. Seventeen and a half percent of all children aged between 5-15 are engaged in economic activities. The average child worker earns between 400 to 700 taka per month, while an adult worker earns up to 5,000 taka per month.” One U.S. dollar equals about 70 taka.”

(Source: farrah3m, via sheshallgofree)

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Lessons Learned From our Elderly…

Years ago I worked abroad in Jerusalem.  One morning, while standing in line at a local market with my daughter, I began to grow impatient with the snails-pace movement of the elderly crowd in front of me.  I only had a handful of items, but the wait seemed to make them feel all the more heavy.  “Old people.”  I remember saying to myself.  Not bothering to hide my contentment.

Lauren and I inched closer to counter.  We were almost there.  As the old man in front of us shuffled to the cashier, fumbling for the correct change with a shaky, unsteady hand, he dropped a handful of shekels.  I watched the coins roll in endless circles on the floor.  Rolling my eyes to the heavens, I exhaled loudly enough for all the West Bank to hear me.

With cash at the ready, I thrust my hand towards the cashier, ready to pay for both of us.  Not to be kind, but rather, to simply expedite the process.  Suddenly, Lauren, who had wedged herself between me and the old man, bent down to pick up his change.  Pointing to a series of numbers tattooed on the man’s forearm, she asked, curiously, “What’s that?”  The old man began to tell her what it was.  How it got there.  And what it meant.  It was the first time my daughter had ever heard of the holocaust.  And the first time I’d ever met a survivor from it.  

What struck me most wasn’t what he was saying, but what was happening behind me: a growing line of frustrated people, now patiently leaning in closer to earshot.  For nearly ten minutes the old man recounted his story of survival.  Like a fine artist, he remembered every detail; the way the small bits of food tasted like cardboard, and how the winter cold cut through the torn, shoddy fabric that hung loosely to his skeletal frame.  The line behind us grew.  Each person listening.  Intently.  Hanging on the old man’s every word.  No one was in a hurry anymore.  We were spell bound.

When his story ended, he patted Lauren on the head.  Taking his money from her tiny hand, he gave it to the cashier then turned to leave.  But not before giving her a smile, and all of us standing in line a lesson in humanity, and humility. I never saw him again, physically.  But I do catch a glimpse of him now and then.  Every time I begin to get impatient at an elderly man driving slowly in front of me, or an old woman who takes too long to cross the street.

I remember that moment in the market.  That impatient feeling I had.  And the lesson I learned without even being addressed by him.  He taught me about respect.  And how listening to the elderly is caring.  And how caring is all about maintaining dignity.  Kindness and compassion goes a long way, I learned that day.  And the elderly deserve more of it.  It’s easy, I suppose, to think old people have lost their visual and auditory senses.  But look deeper and I think you’ll find they see and hear better than us.  Volunteer at an elderly center and find out for yourself.  You’ll be amazed at the indelible mark that will be imprinted on your soul.  Especially when it’s left there by a total stranger.
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