Thursday, November 5, 2009

Letter to Jeffrey Fleishman

That news articles these days almost always seem to contain the embedded opinions of the writers doesn't make it good journalism. A version of the article referred to in the letter to its author included below may be read on the Chicago Tribune web site.

This letter was sent to the author, Jeffrey Fleischman, at his email address of <>

Dear Mr. Fleischman:

I read one of your articles today in The Hartford Courant, published with the headline "Clinton seeks Egypt's help on talks, Arabs, Palestinians fear U.S. tilt favoring Israel on building settlements," and have two criticisms regarding regarding the first and third paragraphs:

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday in a move to rescue shrinking Middle East peace prospects and regain the confidence of Arab nations angry that Washington has not pressed Israel harder to stop building settlements."

"Arab capitals have grown exasperated over Israel's settlement activity and are expressing doubt whether the Obama administration can create grounds for a new round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations."

One criticism is that they both contain opinions, that Middle East peace prospects are shrinking, that Clinton's move was to rescue those prospects and "regain the confidence of Arab nations," that those nations are angry about Washington not pressing Israel even harder on the Jewish communities in the disputed territories and that "Arab capitals have grown exasperated."

Reasonable or not, opinions of the journalist do not belong in what are supposed to be news articles.

(I recognize that the injection of opinions into news articles seems to be the rule these days. Indeed, several years ago I wrote an op-ed published in The Hartford Courant in which I analyzed The New York Times for one particular day and found that almost every news story on its front page that day inappropriately contained expressed opinions of the writer.)

The second criticism is that I believe your opinion is incorrect. While there may be some spokespersons who have said they are angry or have grown exasperated about Israeli settlements - and writing that would be reporting rather than injecting your opinion - far more reasonable is the inference that they have taken advantage of President Obama's foolish and counterproductive pressure on Israel to try to create the false impressions you have conveyed.


Alan H. Stein, Ph.D.

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