What the US public 'knows'

American television is doing an OK job - but just OK.

television 88 (photo credit: )
television 88
(photo credit: )
For the last few days I have been glued to any media form I can get my hand, eyes and ears on. Thanks to my cable system's Digital Video Recording system I have been recording as many news broadcasts as possible. Am I obsessed with the current Israel-Lebanon-Gaza conflict? Well, yes, for several reasons. First, of course, because I am an Israeli-American, and while I do not feel the pain and worry as distinctly as if I were still living in Israel, I am very worried and scared. The rest of my "obsession" stems from my desire to study media coverage of different issues and events. From my years of living and working in Israel I am usually drawn first to coverage of events there. SO HOW is the American media doing so far? My first reaction is from the gut, as a private person, not a professional. I want all of the American public to also know what I can get from the Israeli press and Hebrew radio stations. I want them to know how scary and serious this is for the Israeli public, how long it has been since something even close to this scale of conflict has happened. I want them to know what an on-air silent radio station is all about for Shabbat-observant Jews. What it is like to have a good portion of your countrymen sleeping in bomb shelters or safe rooms. I want them to be able to listen to how a country pulls together in a time of crisis and sends out pleas via the radio and other media asking for citizens to open their homes to Northern residents looking for quieter places to stay. And, if it comes to this, to know what sirens sound like, warning of an impending missile strike in certain parts of the country. And no, the American public is not getting all of the above. Not like I can, or other Jews, Israelis, or people who truly want to get the Israeli media side of the story. That is the emotional feeling. Now for a more professional view. WHILE I can't watch or read everything all at once, all the time, what I have seen so far is not bad, but definitely heavy on the Lebanon coverage. But I have seen a lot. Too much, according to my husband, who says I am overloading the DVR with my recordings. Oh, and yes, I have read some non-American coverage, but let's not go there for now. All the networks have the obligatory correspondents in Beirut and inside Israel along the Northern border. And in Gaza, of course. The coverage, however, seems to fluctuate. Everyone is doing extensive coverage of Lebanon. The Israel side is also a constant, but it ranges from intense to bland. One day I might prefer CNN, when they offer various Israeli diplomats, politicians or analysts up against the usual Arab representatives or ambassadors. Then the next day CNN seems to be missing some of the Israeli side and focusing more on the Arab and Lebanese side. Pointed omission or inability to obtain the right interviewees (highly doubtful)? Another day I might like MSNBC, with nice, more intimate views of the feeling and situation inside Israel offered by outside commentators, where you feel Israel's pain and the story is vividly depicted, even through just words over a phone line, without accompanying video. As for Fox News, I am not quite sure what I feel about them right now. They are covering a bit of everything, but are also spending a lot of time at the top of each hour at the G8 and in the California wildfires. Which, to be fair, the other networks are doing too, but not as their lead stories (unless it is the G8 tied into the Middle East crisis). SO HOW do I think the American media are doing? After pushing my personal feelings aside I give them a bland OK, but not as much of an OK as I would have liked. I would like to see more interviews with Israelis in their shelters, and with Israelis who have been wounded so that part of the story can be seen and heard by the world too. We get stories of the American students stuck in Lebanon. Let's hear more from the Israelis stuck in their shelters or homes, and about the economic losses piling up for their country too. Next week I will teach one of my ongoing adult classes in media education at a local university. Ironically enough, I was scheduled weeks ago to do a "Middle East Update" for this particular class. Boy, will we have a lot to talk about! But my main question to the class will be, "Has the coverage been fair?" As I am not sure that I have the true answer, I don't suppose that I should expect my students to offer one either. Of one thing I am certain: It will make for a lively debate. But the emotional side of me can only hope that this conflict will be over, and we will already be debating it as a part of history. The writer, an Israeli-American citizen, is a former journalist and currently teaches media education and works in public relations. She lives in Hollywood, Florida.