Friday, January 22, 2010

Political reporting in Lebanon and the US

The Angry Arab News Service:

There is at long last an interesting, original, fresh, and entertaining newspaper for the secular left [in Lebanon]. The traditional left is not as excited about it as they should be perhaps because they are accustomed to putting out the most tedious, Soviet-style publications that are only useful for wrapping falafel and Shawirma sandwiches. Communist leaders want a communist publication that only cater to the whims of party leaders, and which publishes every utterance and sneeze of party leaders. But then again: that’s their problem. The atmosphere of Al-Akhbar is different from the atmosphere of other newspapers that I have visited: in Lebanon or in the US. Al-Amin and Saghiyyah are often criticized for not socializing and for not interacting with the media. But I belief that their approach is successful: they don’t socialize with politicians and they established strict rules for their reporters regarding the need to keep a distance from politicians. It is probably the only newspaper in Lebanon that has strict rules against accepting cash from politicians. And to turn down cash from politicians is considered quite unprofessional in the corrupt country of Lebanon, as Ibrahim Amin had learned when he turned down a cash offer from Rafiq Hariri when the former was a reporter for As-Safir. I can tell you that Saudi Arabia is not pleased with my attacks on its ideology and policies in my articles for the newspaper but I will not elaborate here because I was told to not blog on the matter. Use your imagination.

In the US, any news outfit which offends the political class will likely suffer for want of "access." This is because US political coverage is 99.999% the uninterrupted reporting what politicians say. What politicians say is important to the organizations which report on them; but it is particularly important when those organizations are integrated into the same corporate concerns which bankroll the entire political process. Politicians say what corporations want to hear, and corporations provide a national platform for them to say it. For either side to deviate too far from the script means losing direct access to important figures on the one hand, or access to a broader audience on the other.

Of course, the idea that one needs to hang out with politicians in order to do political journalism is only true when you have no other function but to repeat what they say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

obviously you have not experienced the almost shekinah-like glow of sitting in the white house press room as obama (or gibbs) thunders from that sinai.