April 11, 2005

"Report from the Upper West Bank"

If The Daily Dartmouth's coverage of the Columbia University Palestine-Israel conflict left you wanting something slightly more in-depth, check out "Report from the Upper West Bank: How Columbia University became the latest mideast battleground" by John Giuffo in the most recent Village Voice. Of particular note is the analysis of the various kinds of inflammatory spin the controversy has received in less-distinguished New York press:
This is also a story of how some reporters and news organizations are suckers for a good controversy, and a case study of how advocacy journalism can drive and shape events. No news organization has been more of an advocate than The New York Sun, which first wrote on October 20 about Columbia Unbecoming and has played a major role in framing the debate, covering the story aggressively and sympathizing with the pro-Israeli students, and making itself part of the narrative in the process, with students repeatedly singling it out to the Voice as a primary player in the dustup. The Sun has pursued its crusade against Columbia's supposed brownshirts with a steady stream of more than 30 news and opinion pieces with headlines like "Farrakhan for Columbia?," "Dershowitz Says Faculty Members Work to Encourage Islamic Terrorism," and "Ex-Prosecutor Likens Massad Speech to a 'Neo-Nazi Rally.' " Together these pieces have drawn a picture of a campus awash in anti-Semitism, and of an administration that has been hell-bent trying to deny and manipulate events. They are all marked by hyperbole, and they all consistently eschew contradictory statements and testimonies from other students. Editors followed up by publishing on Friday an outraged editorial reaction to the report, goading Columbia's trustees and naming some of those with connections to the Jewish community: "We invite our readers to study the list above. Has the cat got all their tongues? Do these individuals know where—at a time when their country is at war—the funding is coming from for Columbia's Middle East studies programs?"

Jacob Gershman, the Sun reporter most often dispatched to Columbia's trenches, defends his paper's flame-fanning. In an e-mail to the Voice, he writes, "The editor of the Sun tells us that a reporter never has to apologize for covering the hotel that's on fire instead of the ones that are not."

While the Sun has been rabbit-punching the story, the New York Post has been busy throwing around sensational headlines like steamy blocks of leaden hackshit, such as "Soft on Anti-Semitism" and "Columbia's Anti-Semites." The Daily News has shown characteristic restraint with scareheads like "HATE 101" and "This Nut Teaches at Columbia?" Even the Voice's Nat Hentoff, while more balanced, has backed the Columbia Unbecoming students, advocating for their academic freedoms, at one point offering his services to moderate a panel discussion of the events at Columbia.

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