War Coverage and Moral Equivalence

Photos and TV images are the most difficult to balance in journalistic reports, according to an article in the NY TImes, and the Hezbullah/Israel conflict has been among the most difficult, the article says.

But the attempt to balance the photo of a dead Israeli child with that of a dead Lebanese child is seen by some as “a dereliction of journalistic duty.:

“Some critics of Israel argue that because the death tolls and destruction are greater in Lebanon, a proportionality of sorts should inform the resulting reports; anything else betrays a pro-Israeli stance. But supporters of Israel say such an approach bestows a misguided moral equivalence. Israel is a democratic nation exercising its right to self-defense, they argue, while Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that uses the Lebanese people as human shields.”

Certainly there is no moral equivalence here, with the Hezbollah terrorists responsible for attacking a legitimate and democratic nation. But journalistic balance should not infer moral equivalence, although it takes some wisdom by the reader/viewer (always a risk) to separate the morality from the equivalence of human tragedy.

It’s an interesting article on a tough daily struggle for responsbile news organizations.

–Jim Jewell

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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