(photo credit: )
Had the Second Lebanon War last Summer turned out differently, the attitude of the public towards the media would also be different. Retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner shared this opinion on Monday at the annual B'nai B'rith World Center Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf journalism awards ceremony at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.
Dorner, who heads the Israel Press Council, said that during the war there was deep hatred for and hostility against the media, to the extent that some of the letters of complaint sent to the Press Council charged the media with responsibility for the deaths of Israeli soldiers, claimed that the media was harming morale and that it was not paying sufficient attention to Arab victims of rocket attacks, and accused the media of ignoring the volunteer efforts of individuals and organizations on the home front and focusing only on what was being done by billionaire philanthropist Arkady Gaydamak.
The harshest criticism by the public was that the media was unpatriotic and was giving vital information to the enemy.
Dorner decided to investigate and established a committee of inquiry that she headed. The committee interviewed dozens of people including senior army officers and reached the conclusion that the army was more at fault than the reporters, because many army officers talked too much and too irresponsibly. The reporters simply reported what they were told, though Dorner conceded that it would not have hurt had the reporters exercised a little more self-censorship.
On the other hand, in an era of growing competition she could understand that each reporter wanted to be first with the news and reporters also wanted to have news that was riveting.
Some of the people who complained were also aware of this but, from their perspective, the need for ratings and the need to be first to report new information seemed to have outweighed patriotism and all humane considerations.
Dorner did not view the situation that way. The main reason for the public's hostility, she said, was disappointment in the outcome of the war. "Had the outcome been different, the attitude of the public would be different."
Over time, the hatred and the hostility have dissipated, she said, citing as proof a survey in public confidence in which people polled said that their confidence in the institutions of government was down, but that their confidence in the media was up.
"As president of the Press Council, that makes me very happy," said Dorner.