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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 02, 2003

Pulitzers irrelevant?

Tue, 1 Apr 2003 05:41:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: James Bennet & Pulitzers
To: "Sigvard G Gissler" , "Jay T Harris" , "Robert Coonrod"
CC: safire@nytimes.com

Dear Sirs--

Please consider the remarks below regarding today's column by Walter Cronkite before awarding Pulitzers to any reporters or institutions that routinely report opinion as "news" in the news columns.

This would naturally include the "work" of James Bennet, who has consistently failed to report the current contents of the PLO Charter, Fateh Constitution and Hamas Charter, and in a February 22 report on the Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigade, failed to note that this particular terrorist organization falls under the direct control of Fateh, which is under the direct control of Yasser Arafat, and maintains a goal no different than that of the above-mentioned groups, all of which clearly call for genocide and the destruction of the world's only Jewish state. Neither does he ever deign to report what the leaders of these groups, including Abu Mazen, have said even recently, namely to continue in all methods and means to work towards those genocidal aims.

Lest you believe that I know nothing of journalism, I speak as a print journalist with 25 years of experience mostly in the national press corps.

To maintain the relevance and importance of the Pulitzer Prizes, the committee should take great care not to reward those who fail in the most fundamental duty, to report the facts, objectively and without bias.

Best regards--
Alyssa A. Lappen


Tue, 1 Apr 2003 05:26:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Walter Cronkite
To: letters@nytimes.com
CC: "Bill Borders - NY Times" , "Editorial Board - NY Times" , "Foreign Desk- NY Times" , "New York Times"

Dear Editors--

With all due respect, Walter Cronkite "Speaking With the Enemy,” Apr. 1, 2003 misses the salient point regarding Peter Arnett. Yes, his lack of judgment contributed to his downfall, Pulitzer Prize notwithstanding.

His anti-American interview on Iraqi television, however, represented only the worst symptom of a Western news system run amok.

Arnett mistook himself for the news. This is not the same as cozying up to a source, which every reporter must do. Nor does it equal “spinning” a story, also a common technique to favor an underdog or given point of view.

Unfortunately, Western news reporters now seem to believe their own opinions more important than facts, which they are supposed to report to their ultimate constituency, the public. Particularly in coverage of the volatile Middle East, major networks and newspapers routinely omit data, quotations, sources, words--and facts, those stubborn things—that would provide actual (as opposed to perceived) balance.

In that sense, Arnett’s sin was all-too-common, albeit more pronounced than usual “news.” Long gone are the days when Walter Cronkite demurred from stating his political allegiances on air. Remember? Now, prideful reporters think their own opinions are wanted and necessary. They’re neither, especially without hard data to back them up.

Arnett’s downfall is symptomatic. People read papers and watch news for facts. Opinions, they can get elsewhere. Thanks to the Internet, facts are available elsewhere, too.

Alyssa A. Lappen