According to Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett, “Media to blame for Islamic misconceptions; the near-absence of Muslim voice in newsrooms, poor translations contribute to lack of understanding. You see only a Muslim report on Muslim Issues. I guess with that attitude, all of their Israel reporters MUST be Jewish, only Actors can write movie reviews, and that story about the additions to the Washington Zoo—-well you know. Read the entire CAMERA report below:
WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Managing Editor ‘Wants More Muslim Readers, Journalists’ Confused about the purpose of a daily newspaper, pandering to a potential audience, or unable to face — and therefore unable to accurately report on — Islamic extremism? Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett, number three on the editorial side after Publisher Katharine Weymouth and Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr., gave a talk at the University of California – Irvine on March 3 that seemed to exhibit all three characteristics. The Daily Pilot, of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, Calif. headlined its coverage of Bennett’s talk this way: “Media to blame for Islamic misconceptions; Washington Post editor says near-absence of Muslim voice in newsrooms, poor translations contribute to lack of understanding.” Bennett, in a talk about the difficulties of covering the religion, said that reporters often struggle with understanding Islam. “To illustrate this point,” The Daily Pilot reported, “he drew mainly from quotes of notable colleagues and statistical polls, rarely giving his own opinion directly. “‘Six of 10 Americans, according to a 2007 ABC poll, don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam,’ Bennett said. He attributed this to the lack of Muslims working in American newsrooms. “‘At The Post I want more Muslim readers and I want more Muslim journalists,’ he said.” Further, “words poorly translated from Arabic to English are a big source of confusion caused by the lack of Muslim voices in the American media, according to Bennet.” The Daily Pilot added that “one such word that has been contentiously debated in newsrooms is ‘Islamist,’ which generally refers to a political movement government by Islamic law. Bennett said at The Washington Post editors still have not decided whether to add it to their style book. Some argue the word is a useful distinction for movements like Hamas and Hezbollah, but other at The Post argue that it is too vague ….” “Bennett said that in the period following 9/11 there was a lot of uninformed writing about Islam, and that ‘the best journalism fought against the tide of public perception.'” This account of Bennett’s talk raises serious questions. 1) It is the role of the ethnic or specialty press, not a major daily newspaper, to seek readers and journalists from one particular group. Bennett should not specifically want more Jewish readers or reporters — the Washington Jewish Week serves those with a special interest in Jewish news. More black subscribers and writers? The Washington Afro-American helps fill that niche. More gay readers and reporters? The Washington Blade serves that market. It is not The Post’s job to focus on any “boutique readerships,” including Muslims. And the claim that Muslims are needed to best cover Islam is as unprofessional as the assertion that only women should report on other women, or that news about Catholics, blacks, Jews or any other group must be reported by someone from the minority in question. It is a primary purpose of general interest dailies, especially large ones like The Post, to report the news of the day regardless of its religious, ethnic, gender or other minority/special interest roots. In fact, in getting the story comprehensively, in context, for the body politic, a major daily better be transcending those roots if its reports are to be news and not special pleading. This distinction used to be taught in journalism schools, before the rise of victim group politics under the guise of multi-culturalism. 2) “Words poorly translated from Arabic to English are a big source of confusion caused by the lack of Muslim voices in the American media.” Please. If most Americans did not know that jihad was Arabic for the Islamic concept of “holy war,” al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and attempted assault on the U.S. Capitol – with the mass murders of 3,000 people – taught them. Yes, jihad can also mean the “internal struggle” for self-mastery and religious purity, but that’s not why Egyptian Islamic Jihad (which was one of the groups that morphed into al Qaeda) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad use the word as part of their names. It’s not why the Jamaiah al-Islamiyah al-Musallaha, Algeria’s bloody Armed Islamic Group, declared a jihad on French territory in 1999, and so on. Americans understand the contemporary “external struggle” meaning of jihad, as used by Muslim extremists — a worldwide struggle against religious pluralism and equality — quite well, regardless of Bennett’s own confusion. 3) Six and a-half years after 9/11 and Washington Post editors are still debating whether to add the word “Islamist” to their stylebook? Well, it is a bit awkward and somewhat academic. It is not as precise — for the general public if not Post editors — as jihad, jihadist, and jihadi. But since The Post rarely if ever uses, in its own voice, the more recognizable if broad terms Islamo-fascist, Islamic imperialist or Islamic supremacist, it should suffice. EyeOnThePost.com pointed out that Daniel Pipes, a scholar on Islam and early student of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, said (http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/826), “it’s all very well for Bennett to sniff patronizingly at the knowledge of Islam among average Americans, but I am impressed with their learning curve since 9/11 as well as their common sense. Far less impressive to me is a group of sophisticated editors that cannot even, after all these years, decide to use the word Islamist. Someone has a problem understanding Islam, but it’s Philip Bennett, not his readers.” 4) Bennett said that following 9/11 there was a lot of uninformed writing about Islam, and “the best journalism fought against the tide of public perception.” This is breathtakingly self-absorbed and self-exculpating. Perhaps the second biggest post-World War II international news story (after the deterioration and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European empire), has been the rise and spread of Islamic extremism. It was missed by major Western news media, just as they missed the Cold War-induced Soviet implosion. The dots were there but the media — like the intelligence agencies they criticized ex post facto — failed to connect them. Beginning with the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and coming to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, and including the assassination of Anwar Sadat, growth of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian Islamic extremism, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and al Qaeda, the evidence of a new, worldwide ideological threat, call it Islamism or Islamic imperialism, was there. But the media unilluminatingly reported a series of isolated developments, not a dangerous, variegated movement. There was a lot of uninformed writing about Islam after 9/11, much of it in major dailies. Journals of opinion, including The New Republic and National Review, did better. The University of California-Irvine talk was not the first time Bennett opened a window on his own thinking, if not that of The Post. In a 2005 interview with the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, Bennett reportedly said that “the world has gone through colonialism and imperialism. We have seen the danger and shortcomings of those systems. If we are heading into another period of imperialism where the U.S. thinks itself as the leader of the area and its interest should prevail over all other interests of its neighbors and others, then I think the world will be in an unhappy period.” He also was quoted as saying that The Post never characterizes China as a dictatorship. “We don’t use these words on the paper anymore,” he said. “Now we say China is a Communist country only because it is a fact. China is ruled by the Communist Party.” In fact, at the time of the interview, The Post had referred, accurately, to China’s often brutal, militarized, one-party Communist regime as a dictatorship. And its editorials were not proposing that some other country, say the United Kingdom or France, try to take the lead from America in preserving and, if possible, extending, democracy internationally. But it’s not surprising that an editor uncomfortable identifying China as a communist dictatorship might have problems accurately identifying Islamists and jihadists, and be in denial about the scope and newsworthiness of Islamic extremism, and the role his newspaper should play in covering it.