June 19, 2006
Is Al-Jazeera Less Biased Than The New York Times?By Noel Sheppard
If there were great news out of Iraq, which media outlet would be the least likely to report it?
If you answered 'a' or 'b,' you were contradicted by last week's coverage. Some absolutely magnificent news did come out of Iraq last Thursday, yet, hard as it might be to believe, subscribers to The New York Times and The Washington Post would have been better off visiting the websites of the anti—American television network Al—Jazeera, or the Hezbollah—run television station Al—Manar if they wanted to find out about it.
The following are the surprising opening paragraphs of Thursday's report by Al—Jazeera.net — a media outlet never shy about its hatred for America or its support for Islamic terrorists — in a story amazingly titled ''End' of al—Qaeda in Iraq,' and containing information that neither The Times nor The Post shared with their readers:
Though almost totally inconceivable, al—Rubaie was quoted both frequently and favorably by Al—Jazeera:
Spectacular news to say the least, made even more so coming from a network that has a hard time hiding its glee when American soldiers in Iraq are killed. Yet, potentially even more surprising, Al—Manar, the Lebanese television station run by the terrorist group Hezbollah, also reported this development at its website Thursday:
One would certainly imagine this to be welcome news to Americans, even to those that have been opposed to this incursion since a few months after it started. In fact, it shouldn't have been at all surprising to find this story plastered on the front pages of newspapers coast to coast on Friday, including those with anti—war tendencies as well as a preponderance of anti—war subscribers.
Unfortunately, such was not the case. Not only didn't this news reach the front pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post, but also this entire assessment by Iraq's national security advisor went unreported by either of these publications' print editions despite an extraordinary amount of coverage given by both organizations to all things Iraq.
The Post was clearly the more negligent concerning this issue. As noted by NewsBusters, Friday's article entitled 'Maliki Aide Who Discussed Amnesty Leaves Job' wasn't just strategically buried well inside the paper on page A22, but also the writers waited until paragraph 21 to address the recently seized al—Qaeda documents:
In a 1,703—word article about Iraq, this was all the attention The Post deigned to give to a document reportedly taken from one of Zarqawi's computers, after which the piece quickly regressed into a predictable exposition of American casualty figures since the war's inception. Conspicuously absent was any reference to al—Rubaie or his assessment of the future of al—Qaeda in this region.
Yet, The Post did have a front—page story about Iraq on Friday. In fact, it had two. In the first one, the same writers of the previous piece focused their sights on the seemingly more important condition of prisons in the embattled nation.
Besides the obviously questionable journalistic priorities being displayed by the positioning of these two articles, potentially most provocative was the immediate reference to an Iraqi that likely few in America have ever heard of right in the first two paragraphs:
Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei? Certainly no household name that. As such, the bias being demonstrated here was as disturbing as it was striking, for The Post made it quite clear that it will prominently quote Iraqi legal figures that have a negative view of what is going on in that country while totally ignoring the opinions of Iraqi national security officials who believe progress is being made in the war and in defeating America's sworn enemy.
The second front—page article on Iraq published by The Post on Friday dealt with the Congressional debate about the war that occurred the previous day on Capitol Hill. It seems The Post feels political discussions about Iraq in Washington are more important than positive events transpiring there.
All totaled, The Post published eight articles and two editorials about Iraq on Friday comprising an astounding 9,688 words with not one of them mentioning al—Rubaie or this positive development for his nation, and only four sentences devoted to the seized al—Qaeda documents. Imagine that.
For its part, The Times also ran two front—page stories dealing with Iraq on Friday. In 'U.S. Portrayal Helps Flesh Out Zarqawi's Heir,' the writers didn't actually reference the seized al—Qaeda documents until the nineteenth paragraph. By then, the text had conveniently, and likely not accidentally, shifted off the front—page well into the body of the paper.
Much like The Post, the other front—page story about Iraq published by The Times on Friday was about Congress's debate on the issue. This ended up being one of four articles The Times published on Friday about this region totaling 3,463 words.
But, there was absolutely no coverage given to al—Rubaie, or his prediction that 'this is the beginning of the end of al—Qaeda in Iraq.' I guess the words of a national security advisor aren't important to The Times unless they are dealing with so—called 'wiretaps' that one of its writers has despicably outed.
By contrast to the boycott of this issue by America's leading dailies, the international media were quite fascinated with the news. For instance, this was the lede in a report filed by the BBC on Thursday with a headline that one would never imagine seeing here in America, 'Al—Qaeda 'Coming to End in Iraq'':
Don't hold your breath waiting for The Times or The Post to run that story.
Echoing the BBC's clearly well—placed journalistic priorities, British newspapers from The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Birmingham Post all gave a lot of attention to this story with one headline reading 'Al—Qaeda in Iraq 'Close to Collapse.'' Nearby, The Scotsman, The Irish Times, and the Daily Record prominently reported this news, with one running the headline 'Al—Qaeda 'Facing Destruction.''
Australian newspapers also seemed intrigued by al—Rubaie's announcement, as the Hobart Mercury, the Herald Sun, The Australian, and the Courier Mail ran stories on the subject. In Canada, The Hamilton Spectator, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and The Calgary Herald also covered this story.
Elsewhere, publications such as The Daily Times of Pakistan, Indian Express, Turkish Daily News, Taipei Times, Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates, the Times of India, the Gulf Daily News of Bahrain, Middle East Times of Egypt, the St. Petersburg Times of Russia, The Daily Star of Lebanon, Thanh Nien Daily of Vietnam, Al—Bawaba of Jordan, and the Peninsula Online of Qatar saw enough importance in this issue to report it.
In fact, international media outlets of all colors and stripes Thursday and Friday — including two that are overtly and unashamedly hostile towards America and its people, while clearly rooting for her enemies in Iraq — shared this tremendously optimistic news with their readers.
And yet, two of America's leading newspapers chose not to report it at all. Sadly, this once again demonstrated how America's media are fighting a different battle than its soldiers. After all, for publications that have been voicing loud and almost constant opposition to this war for several years, any positive development that leads to their expressly desired troop withdrawal should be heralded from the rooftops.
On their part, any behavior to the contrary indicates media that want the troops to leave, but only if they do so in loss and shame. Despicably, a stable, peaceful Iraq that offers America the opportunity to reduce troop levels in a victorious and strategically advantageous fashion would clearly not be welcomed by these news agencies, for it wouldn't achieve the political result they are working so tirelessly for, namely, ousting Republicans from power in upcoming elections.
The fact that this probably doesn't come as a big surprise to many readers even makes it more disgraceful.
Noel Sheppard is a contributing writer to the Business & Media Institute, as well as contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. He welcomes feedback.