Rejecting claims of AP bias against Israel

An article in which a former reporter in The Associated Press’s Jerusalem bureau accuses The AP of  anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bias has been getting a lot of attention. Like many other people, I received it in a friend’s e-mail blast. 

Like a lot of media criticism, it’s biased. That was apparent to me from the start because the former AP writer, author Matti Friedman, tries to make his case with the claim that the AP’s decision to station a large number of reporters in Israel was rooted in anti-Israel bias. It’s probably true that too many reporters are concentrated in Israel and not enough in, say, sub-Saharan Africa. But news organizations focus resources on the places they believe have the news their readers most want to know. It’s hardly evidence of bias.   

Friedman does offer some alarming anecdotes in his article, which appeared in The Tablet (the Jewish newspaper). And unlike the vast majority of media criticism one sees on the Middle East, this is coming from someone who actually knows something about the practice of journalism.  Still, knowing the integrity of The AP (where I worked for five years) and the people who run it, I knew there had to be more to it.

And now we have it. The former AP Jerusalem bureau chief, Steven Gutkin, has written a response that calls Friedman's piece "little more than well-written hogwash."  He responds to the specific allegations and gives a much fuller picture of life in the Jerusalem bureau than Friedman does in his lengthy piece. You can judge for yourself, but It convinces me that he and The AP tried very hard to cover this terrible conflict fairly. I hope his article is circulated every bit as widely as Friedman’s article has been.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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