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New Study reveals OREGONIAN Double-standard

As the only daily newspaper in the State of Oregon with state-wide circulation and the largest newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, the Opinion Page editors of The Oregonian carry the burden of a public trust to provide a wide-open forum for debate on the pressing issues of our day. With respect to the debate on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, however, the editors of the Opinion Pages have failed to meet their obligations to the public.

This report documents the findings of a one-year study of the Opinion Pages of The Oregonian conducted by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and Palestine Media Watch. Specifically, this report is concerned with the content presented in The Oregonian's Editorial Section and the newspaper's selection of commentaries, cartoons, and letters to the editor dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the period beginning on June 1, 2004 and ending on May 31, 2005.
Exclusion of the Palestinian Narrative
Exclusion of the Palestinian Narrative
Oregonian Exclusions Covering the Palestine / Israel conflict

"on probably the most enduring and insistent foreign policy issue of our time, we routinely do not hear from one side" -- Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune

See also: AUPHR's report on the Oregonian's news coverage

Download the full editorial report here: www.auphr.org/docs/OregonianEditorialReport.pdf

I. Executive Summary

As the only daily newspaper in the State of Oregon with state-wide circulation and the largest newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, the Opinion Page editors of The Oregonian carry the burden of a public trust to provide a wide-open forum for debate on the pressing issues of our day. With respect to the debate on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, however, the editors of the Opinion Pages have failed to meet their obligations to the public. This report documents the findings of a one-year study of the Opinion Pages of The Oregonian conducted by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and Palestine Media Watch. Specifically, this report is concerned with the content presented in The Oregonian's Editorial Section and the newspaper's selection of commentaries, cartoons, and letters to the editor dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the period beginning on June 1, 2004 and ending on May 31, 2005.

The quantitative part of this study was performed using the Content Analysis methodology. The method was used to select and classify the editorials, op-eds, letters, and cartoons that were related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into three classes or narratives. The three general narratives under which each item was classified were the Israeli-narrative, Palestinian-narrative and the Neutral-narrative. Also presented is a qualitative assessment in the form of two in-depth case studies for the months of June and July of 2005.
Summary of Commentaries/Op-eds

Among the study's key findings are the following:

* 83 percent of all published editorials on this issue reflected an Israeli-narrative with 0 percent of editorials reflecting the Palestinian-narrative.
* With respect to commentaries or op-eds, 56 percent promoted the Israeli- narrative while only 4 percent exhibited attributes of a Palestinian-narrative.
* The majority of cartoons, 62 percent, represented attributes of an Israeli- narrative, while 38 percent exhibited attributes of a Palestinian-narrative.
* Most editorial space and selected commentaries dealing with the Israeli- Palestinian conflict largely present the Israeli-narrative and rarely debate the illegal and immoral nature of Israel's actions.
* The Oregonian has seriously constrained the nature and range of voices available to readers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also a noted failure to respond or react to news items indicating Israel's gross violation of Palestinian human rights and its noncompliance with international law.

* The Cartoon Section was tilted to the Israeli-narrative and complimented the content of the Editorial and Commentary sections of The Oregonian in reinforcing this view. The Letters to the Editor Section, though more representative of a Palestinian-narrative, is, by its nature, an insufficient counterbalance to the Israeli-narrative presented regularly in the other sections of The Oregonian's Opinion Pages.

Over an extended period of time, one would have expected to find balance in the treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Opinion Pages of The Oregonian. Like the news sections of the newspaper, the material presented in the Opinion Pages should also meet basic journalistic standards of balance, fairness and accuracy. Rather than make the newspaper a forum where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be debated and discussed, however, little in the Opinion Pages has deviated from the official Israeli government positions. This is reflected in what is or is not discussed, the timing of the issues presented in the editorials and commentaries, and how those issues are framed.

The results of this one-year study demonstrate that the hypothesis that The Oregonian Opinion Pages provide a wide-open forum for debate is false. In fact, the editorial and commentary sections of The Oregonian very seldom provided an opportunity for readers to be exposed to a Palestinian-narrative of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict or to a neutral human-rights centered perspective.

The Oregonian has largely excluded voices coming from the Palestinian-narrative from the discussion of current events on this conflict. Discussion of international human rights, humanitarian law and violations of the same were also largely left out. The result is that the newspaper has narrowly defined the arguments that are allowed to participate in this debate. The systematic over-representation of the Israeli-narrative and significant silence about important issues, such as international laws and humanitarian norms, raises serious questions about The Oregonian's commitment to journalistic standards for balance, fairness and accuracy.
largest? 26.Apr.2006 22:32

wareq quentin124@hotmail.com

I thought the Seattle papers had larger circulation. Or is it just that Seattle has two major corporate papers and Portland has only one?

seattle papers 26.Apr.2006 22:40

Hindi

I think they have two papers there, which is much healthier than the situation we have here.

The P.I. and Times are a joke 27.Apr.2006 06:27

Spastica Rex

The Seattle P.I. and the Seattle Times are operated under a joint agreement (at least they were up to the point where I left the city in 2004) and are essentially a monopoly. They're both predominatley corporate "lifestyle" rags that celebrate the fabulous homes, cars, yachts, office buildings, and stadiums owned by the Seattle elite.

The big O is just another corporate dominated voice... 27.Apr.2006 08:17

Pravda or Consequences

generated by a body politic that sees only conflict as the solution to conflict.

The imbalance of forces between Israel and Palestine that responsible for the misery that is there now are man-made and but man seems unable or unwilling to balance those forces. How is one to accept nuclear weaponry in Israel but not in Iran?

I wholly support a nuclear-free planet and I wish we could sue to disarm, but I think my country's policies don't advocate Oslo enough and the behavior of current leaders are every reason to demand a balanced separation of Federal powers if we are to create world peace. By this I mean we start with three (3) equals and then add more equals until we have democracy.

The global corporation perverts this natural process by pressing its own interests to the delay or demise of others unfairly in that, "One person, one vote" and "Equality" becomes abstract instead of absolute.

so? 27.Apr.2006 14:01

RainMan

So where is the study posted? This sounds interesting, but how do I not know that you just made up the numbers? Just because I know our government is stupid does nto mean that I believe everything i see on the web.

They must have known this was coming 27.Apr.2006 16:24

jason

The Oregonian must have anticipated this study's release, because today there is a well written pro-palestinian letter in the paper. I was surprised to read such a good letter in the O, and I guess now I know why--when all the folks see this story, and then check the paper, they'll think they study is wrong.

Just a guess, but I bet we'll see a few more pro-palestine letters in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Re: They must have known this was coming 27.Apr.2006 19:53

Hindi

I agree, the timing is suspect. But letters are low risk, they don't necessarily allow the depth and coverage the op-eds and editorials do. I wonder if the Oregonian will respond to these findings.

How were the classificaitons made? 28.Apr.2006 20:22

Stivin

How was each piece classified into the Israeli, Palestinian, or neutral narrative categories? Depending on how this is done the results will vary greatly. I would like to be able to see the details of the study before I can find it credible. Thanks.

Regarding Classifications 28.Apr.2006 22:46

Auphr member

Stivin/Rainman,
The methodology used in this study is called "Content Analysis" and is discussed in the Methodology section of the report. The breakdown of the narratives is detailed in Appendix-A. For the full report see:  http://www.auphr.org/docs/OregonianEditorialReport.pdf

listen to one source 29.Apr.2006 00:35

audio geek

If you'd like, please listen to a speech by Alison Weir, journalist and executive director of If Americans Knew - this just went up on Indymedia.
The link is  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/04/338455.shtml

Not so impressive 29.Apr.2006 01:02

NE Resident

I don't buy it.

First of all, the study is looking at the opinion page --- not the actual news pages??! Weird!

Second of all, there was no mention of the source material - the raw letters that the paper received. How can any conclusion be drawn without those?

And the bias of the organization with a particular political view --- silly --- one study, from a politicized group can't be taken too seriously until there's collaborative evidence.

For a MUCH BETTER, and professionally done study about how the media handles the Palestinian conflict, see:

"Bias and Fear Tilting Coverage of Israel", by FAIR.
 http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2127

Let's be open-minded, but not so much that our brains fall out.

Whoops 29.Apr.2006 01:30

NE Resident

I meant this article:

The Illusion of Balance
NPR's coverage of Mideast deaths doesn't match reality
 http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1086

Re: NE Resident 29.Apr.2006 01:49

Auphr member

NE Resident,

Every single editorial, letter, op-ed and cartoon used in this study is referenced in Appendix B of the study. As such all the sources are presented.

You are right, this study does not look at the News which is an important part of the paper. But AUPHR has published another study on the News Section of The Oregonian last year. You can access that study from www.auphr.org.

On NE Resident's Logic 29.Apr.2006 02:18

anony

How can you discriminate against a group for the sole reason that this group has a political/ethnic identity different than your own? Did you not believe that African Americans were/are discriminated against just because they are Black and are by default naturally biased to their own race? Or will you need an independent unpoliticized white group to give you the ultimate and independent 'collaborative evidence'.

Anyway, FAIR itself is a great group and is far from being 'neutral' or 'unpoliticized'. From their website, in their own words:

"As a progressive group, FAIR believes that structural reform is ultimately needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting and promote strong non-profit sources of information."

I'm discriminating because... 29.Apr.2006 19:28

NE Resident

...that's how science works. Any particular study's conclusion is NEVER taken as proof:

The results of their study may actually be correct. But is need to be collaborated. That's simply how science works. Designing a study and executing it well are VERY difficult things.

Finally, it should be obvious that an organization set up to push a particular agenda may influence the findings of a study. It would be much better for them to FUND an independent group - say, a poly sci professor at PSU - to undertake the study. Sorry to sound pedantic, but that's how science is actually done. Those results would be much more convincing.

Please note that I personally agree with the goals of the organization. But I'm just giving that feedback of how the rest of the world will view this, and why, for example, there'll probably be no mention in mainstream press, or whatever.

And whoever accused me of being racist is simply outing themselves as the biggest jackass. What - any disagreement is cause for an ad hominem attack?

Not *those* sources... 29.Apr.2006 19:30

NE Resident

What I meant was, I believe that:

How do we know that the bias is actually that of the readers? In other words, maybe the Oregonian's op/ed page is accurately reflecting the submissions it receives? Is that possible? It seems that we'd need to see ALL the submissions to the Oregonian, not just the ones that were printed.

Mainstream media 30.Apr.2006 10:39

anony

NE Resident

Do you realistically believe the mainstream media would give a voice to those who are critical of it? I have never seen any mainstream media outlet ever mention any of FAIR's studies or for that matter any critiques of the mainstream media coverage.

On the scientific method, you have the right to raise questions on the methods and conclusions, but I believe it is wrong to discriminate against the study simply because of the group's political views. Think about it.. When Jews and others were giving us EVIDENCE of the holocaust should we have just said, "WAIT, we can't really believe you because you're probably biased, why don't you fund some independent studies?" And if they do fund a study, maybe then we will say, "WAIT, this study is biased because it was funded by a special interest."

Op-Eds in The Oregonian 30.Apr.2006 23:39

Auphr member

Members of our organization have been sending The Oregonian local, national and international op-eds about this issue more than once a week. Regardless of what they receive, because The Oregonian is publishing so many of the Israeli narrative op-eds in addition to their editorials, they do have an obligation to actively solicit op-eds from the Palestinian side for the sake of a balanced debate. There are many experts, eye-witnesses and activists on this issue living in Oregon and around the country that would jump at the chance to be able to contribute to this debate.