Nothing to see here, folks: Foreign media's Israel coverage wanes

Outlets cutting staff due to lull in violence, shift of viewers' interest.

Fox News (photo credit: Courtesy )
Fox News
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A relative lull in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to a fall in the number of foreign journalists in Israel, according to an official at ABC News. Simon McGregor-Wood, coordinator and bureau chief of ABC News in Jerusalem, noted that many foreign press offices, including major United States television networks, have retained their bureaus but cut their staff by half. The cuts, he says, are due to the decrease in "spectacular" violence in the area, coupled with the rise to the fore of issues such as the Iraq war, the Iranian threat and the upcoming US presidential election. "In terms of the media market there is less interest than there was [in the past]," McGregor-Wood told The Jerusalem Post. "There is the enormous drain on resources because of the war in Iraq, which is editorially more interesting and financially more expensive. It's hard to get the attention of the American viewer or reader because of the domestic agenda, which is strong because of the presidential campaign." McGregor-Wood said that the country's security situation had been more compelling for media outlets earlier in the decade because of frequent suicide bombings and Israeli military campaigns, both of which have since died down. "The principle is that there is less to report here than there was several years ago," he said. "There are less momentous events. There's a decrease in the violence, and the position changes [in local politics] are not presentable. The daily conflict between Israel and the Palestinians doesn't change much and becomes repetitive and boring. It's been over-covered." McGregor-Wood added that an overall decrease in the US media audience had hurt coverage of Israel. "There are very few mainstream media organizations expanding," he said. Almost all of the big newspapers and television stations are contracting. Money is a huge issue for all American mainstream media. Everybody is suffering financially." But Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman told the Post that though there has been a decrease in the number of credentialed foreign journalists, the amount of coverage Israel receives in worldwide media has not dropped. The change, which Seaman said began after the December 2006 earthquake in Indonesia demanded coverage that would have otherwise been focused on Israel, has manifested itself in many news corporations relying on locally based reporters to send them updates rather than stationing a permanent reporter in the area. Seaman said this was good for Israel because Israelis had more familiarity with the situation and could give more diverse coverage. "In my eyes, an Israeli that lives here and that is involved in these things is less inclined to go into the 'pack mentality' of other journalists," said Seaman. "When foreign reporters come to a certain location, they hang out together and they influence one another. It's extremely unusual for journalists to report the story differently. Once you shut down those offices, the Israelis you hire are far more experienced." McGregor-Wood agreed that a decrease in foreign-credentialed journalists may be a boon for Israelis, who don't appreciate being under a global media lens on a daily basis. "I don't know if the average ordinary Israeli likes living under the international media spotlight," he said.