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More Questions than Answers

Binyamin Rose, Eilat

The tranquil environs of Eilat at Israel’s southern tip provided a welcome respite for journalists who’ve been piling up the overtime keeping edgy Israelis updated on the ongoing spate of terror. The tranquility evaporated quickly, however, during panel discussions at the ninth annual Eilat Journalists Conference, where the tough questions outnumbered the wise answers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When the grandfatherly network news anchor Walter Cronkite signed off from CBS Evening News with his trademark slogan, “That’s the way it is…” viewers trusted that the stories he had just delivered straight into their living rooms was a faithful rendering of the day’s events. Cronkite, named America’s most trusted man in a 1972 poll, died six years ago at age 92. He just might have turned over in his grave this past September when aGallup poll revealed public trust in his profession has plummeted to an all-time low of 40%. TheGallup poll surmised that some of this loss of public confidence is self-inflicted, citing cases where prominent journalists either “exaggerated” or “misremembered” news stories that they covered. In Cronkite’s pre-politically correct era, these would have been called lies, but the roots of such dishonesty grow deeper than any character flaws reporters might possess. Every industry has its pressures and temptations to cut corners in the race to beat the competition. The news cycle is both relentless and hyper-competitive. Journalists are hired, and fired, for their ability or failure to consistently be first and fastest. Accuracy is and always will be prized, but many media outlets now value speed over taking heed and style over substance, to the detriment of their readership and viewers. Earlier this year, the Israeli Democracy Institute released a poll showing the Israeli media fares even worse in the public eye than their US colleagues, with just 28.4% of the Jewish public saying they either had “very much” or “quite a lot” of trust in the media. 

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