MEDIA COMMENT: Media appreciation

It is our hope that the Abramowitz Israel Prize for Media Criticism makes a significant contribution to improving media standards

Newspaper laptop sports 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank [illustrative])
Newspaper laptop sports 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank [illustrative])
A good word or a pat on the back may be sometimes much more helpful then constant criticism. This is even more so when the good word is deserved. It is for this reason that Israel’s Media Watch celebrates “good” media with its annual prize award ceremony.
The Abramowitz Israel Prize for Media Criticism is being awarded this year for the thirteenth time.
One may obtain some feeling for the quality of the award, by considering previous laureates. In fact many of them have continued their excellent work, irrespective of whether they have been given additional prizes or not.
In the year 1999, the first prizes ever were awarded to Motti Golan, today at the Globes newspaper, and Yoav Yitzchak, the editor of the News 1 website. Both have persevered with their media review work. Both are relentless in their pursuit of truth. They set a standard for future media review prizes.
In fact, this year, the prize committee of IMW was so impressed by Golan’s work it decided to award him a special citation at this year’s award ceremony in recognition of his Globes column. For example, Golan, in contrast to many of his counterparts, did not hesitate to criticize the methods used by his colleague Ilana Dayan in her Uvda program, which purportedly documents wrongdoings within Israeli society. Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would feel the sharp side of his pen for backing down from legislation which would curb the freedom of the press to harm individuals.
Giving out prizes is not an easy job. Sometimes, one does not find enough deserving candidates, but life is much more difficult when there are too many and one has to make a tough decision. One way of easing it is by noting those who deserve the prize.
Neri Avneri is one of those unique people in Israeli society who feels the urge to donate his time and effort for the sake of all of us. For this purpose he has a hardcopy media archive in his home.
He has also created a media archive website ( which provides the public with archival material that in his words “our media prefers to hide.”
For example, if you want to know what our politicians had to say in their past about “united Jerusalem,” go to his website. You will be reminded for example that our president, Shimon Peres, declared the slogan “Peres will divide Jerusalem,” which starred in the 1996 election campaign, as “a blood libel.”
Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid made an oath on their honor that Jerusalem would not be divided.
IMW will also give Avneri a special citation for his dedicated media review service. Avneri deserves the recognition which the Israeli media does not give him.
A THEME which has appeared more than once in our columns is the lack of interest of our mainstream media in some of the minorities in Israel. This disinterest has been recently documented by Aref Abu Gwedr, a graduate student in Communications at Ben-Gurion University who wrote a paper on “The perception of young Israeli Arabs of the portrayal of the Arab population in the Israeli media.”
Abu Gwedr interviewed in depth a group of Arab citizens of Israel to take stock of their views and perceptions on the way Israeli Arabs are portrayed in Israel’s media. The questions touched on a variety of facets such as cultural, humor and satire programming and films.
From the many quoted excerpts, it is apparent that those interviewed consider that there exists a discriminatory view of the Arab minority in the media.
The coverage of the Arab minority is limited and when there are reports, they include many slighting remarks as well as negative portrayals. It is their feeling that as a result, the Arab citizens of Israel do not achieve genuine and appropriate media representation.
IMW’s academic prize committee, headed by Dr. Rafi Mann, decided that Abu Gwedr well deserves IMW’s academic prize for academic excellence in media review. One would hope that such recognition would make a dent in the wall of our disinterested media.
One would also hope that such recognition contributes a wee bit to creating a change in the perception of the young Arab population as to Israeli society’s relation to them.
A topic which is normally ignored by various prizes is economic journalism. Its importance cannot be belittled. We obtain our information about financial markets, companies, governmental actions, salaries, sales and much more from the media. Yet oftentimes we worry that the purveyor has hidden interests, especially when reporting on powerful financial institutions and companies.
For this reason, IMW instituted the Israel Prize for Quality Economic Journalism which, this year, has been awarded to Yael Ayalon of Kol Yisrael. Ayalon is a senior economic correspondent, covering Israeli economics for many years.
The news she brings to the public excels in its verity and depth. Her reports are balanced and pointed.
She had no fear of publicizing outrageous corruption in Israel’s central Labor union – the Histadrut.
She was the first to reveal that Israel’s employers wanted to limit the powers of Israel’s labor court and much more.
The central prize awarded is the Abramowitz Israel Prize for Media Criticism. This year it goes to two people, each of which heads a media review organization. One is Hanoch Marmari, a former editor of Haaretz and presently the editor of the Israel Democracy Institute’s “The Seventh Eye” Internet media review magazine. The second is Chanie Luz, director of the Tadmit center for media review at the Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael.
Although both organizations may be characterized as being left and right respectively, both have contributed significantly to media review in Israel.
For example, the Seventh Eye provides the interested reader, lawmaker and researcher with comprehensive information about the movement toward conditioning the usage of news portals with payment, as being now practiced by the Haaretz newspaper. The magazine covers in depth various issues having to do with their perception of mismanagement at the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Luz exposed during her work extreme bias against the settlers and the settlement movement at the Army Radio station Galatz. Her organization has carried out and publicized comparative studies of how certain issues are covered by our media, showing the disparity between human rights efforts when it comes to Arabs, Jews and settlers. Luz has a weekly media review column in the Besheva weekly and is involved in many different aspects of media review in Israel.
The media needs its consumers and the consumers deserve good media. It is our hope that the It is our hope that the Abramowitz Israel Prize for Media Criticism makes a significant contribution to improving media standards, providing for a more ethical and professional media that better serves Israel’s democracy.
The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch