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When U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Beirut today, there were numerous ways to report and interpret that news. The U.S.-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) saw it this way:

Today’s visit of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice means Israel is racing against the clock. While the conflict rages in Lebanon and dozens more rockets fall on Israeli cities, Israel must prepare for perhaps the biggest battle of all: the battle to hold off world opinion long enough to get a military victory over Hezbollah.

But the German public media outlet, Deutsche Welle, had a different take in a story headlined, “Rice Enters Middle East Arena With Few Friends for Company”:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarks on a high-stakes Middle East mission Sunday, with the United States increasingly estranged from European and Arab allies over the crisis.

Meanwhile, Time magazine’s Elaine Shannon, reporting from Beirut, noted that the U.S. position on a cease-fire had changed dramatically over the weekend in judging Rice’s statements:

Rice seems well aware that the death and destruction wreaked by the Israeli bombardment and blockade of Lebanon is causing great anguish in the Arab world — and that U.S. support for Israel is endangering U.S. relations with moderate Arab leaders. So she is making a point of claiming that the U.S. hasn’t sat by passively as the region’s misery deepens.

Following the news online from the Middle East is a study in media literacy. You often wonder who is giving you the information, what their biases might be, and how much you can trust them. In the above example, you can say that the CBN takes a solidly pro-Israel stance, Deutsche Welle is a bit more anti-American, and Time tries to balance both sides a bit more. Of course, that’s a judgment passed from reading just a few articles, subject to change at the whim of the reporters and editors each day.

So I put the question to you, the avid readers and followers of this story: Which online sources are helping you follow news from the Middle East? The results were very interesting, not only for what you follow, but for what you don’t follow. Out of all your responses, only one person mentioned a news source that was actually headquartered in the Middle East: the Ha’aretz newspaper site in Israel.

Here is the comprehensive tally of sources you follow online for Mideast news (keep in mind this is a very unscientific poll, and many of you voted for multiple sources):

BBC: 5
Deutsche Welle: 3
Fox News: 2
The Independent (UK): 2
NBC News (on TV): 2
Al Jazeera: 2
Christian Broadcasting Network: 1
CNN: 1
MSNBC: 1
Juan Cole: 1
CBC: 1
Ha’aretz: 1
DemocracyNow: 1
TV5.fr: 1
Memri.org: 1
New York Times: 1
Washington Post: 1
Truthout: 1
Daily Kos: 1
World Net Daily: 1
Andrew Sullivan: 1
Guardian: 1
BuzzFlash: 1
New Yorker: 1
What Really Happened: 1

Many of you mentioned the need to go overseas for European coverage of events in the Middle East, because you mistrusted American media. The top vote-getters, BBC and Deutsche Welle, are both public media outlets in the UK and Germany, respectively. The BBC not only has blanket coverage of events there, but includes eyewitness reports from the front lines in Lebanon and Israel.

Stephen Donelly explains why the BBC rates for him while U.S. media lags behind:

I live in NYC, home to all of the major American networks. However, my disappointment with their coverage has forced me to look elsewhere. FOXNews.com’s chase-the-dramatic-footage-and-focus-on-the-fear methodolgy and blatantly partisan anchors make my brain implode. The sites for NBC, CBS and ABC are a little more even-handed, but all of them carefully tiptoe around their advertisers. CNN was okay, but is close to taking the Fox route.

These are the reasons why I (an American-born citizen) rely on the BBC News site — it’s more in-depth than others that I’m aware of. Occasionally, I’ll even risk Big Brother’s wiretaps and visit the site for Al Jazeera.

In a democracy (“WE the People…”) that so often trumpets the diversity of its people, why, in this critical time, can we not also celebrate the diversity of their thoughts and beliefs? In any case, why can’t American news organizations (for a change) just give us the facts and allow us to interpret them?

Of course there are many ways to present the facts, and each news outlet can focus on the “facts” coming from one side or the other. While Donelly likes the facts from the BBC, others see Fox News as presenting the facts better.

“I listen to FOX News as I find that they present all sides, fairly and concisely,” wrote Joy Knight. “It is important to present the news in a balanced manner. If Boston had been hit with 100 rockets, would we be justified to retaliate [against] the aggressor?”

Robert Parker concurred, saying he preferred news coming from a “right perspective” rather than from outlets he perceived as liberal.

“I think I’ll start with the one-side reporting of PBS news,” Parker wrote. “The last few nights on PBS TV has had only supporters of Muslims. And making Israel the sole aggressor. So only one side of a two-sided coin. So [there’s] such a left extreme here I balance it with CBN which acually has had both sides discussing the situation over there. I get more factual content usually from the right perspective. Where the left is always trying to tell people how to think instead of letting people draw their own conclusions.”

While more people mentioned Fox News than any other source, many of those mentions were of the negative variety, with the main point being that Fox parrots the pro-U.S., pro-Israeli line. “Fox News commentators show little compassion for the hardships of the Arab population and encourage more carnage by Israel,” wrote Paul Hargett.

I was impressed with the variety of sources you all follow to get the news. Almost no one relies on one source for Mideast news, and some of you really use the Internet to broaden your learning. Debbie gets the prize for biggest news junkie when it comes to following the Mideast crisis:

For the Middle Eastern perspective I read Memri.org. They translate news articles from a variety of Mideast news sources into English. It’s an excellent site. Also when online I check out The Drudge Report, the New York Times Select and the Washington Post. Truthout.org posts articles from William Rivers Pitt and Molly Ivins, two of my favorites. The online New Yorker has excellent articles; long, but very worthwhile. As for UK new sites I read the BBC, the Independent and the Guardian. For full tilt boogie partisan viewpoints I read BuzzFlash and World Net Daily. Whew!

The website What Really Happened is very interesting, but watch out — to illustrate the reality of war they posted a photograph of a dead little Afghan child in her grandfather’s arms missing her foot. It was so tragic. The look on his face! I’ll never get that image out of my mind.

While the Internet allows you to read news from media outlets around the world — largely free of charge — it also contains unedited accounts and grisly photographs that can push the lines of decency. For some people, that can be too much; for others, it’s a much-needed window into the real world of war.

What do you think? Are there other sources you rely on for news from the Middle East? Do you mistrust American news sources, and why? What sets the BBC apart? Why are you a fan of Fox News? Share your thoughts in the comments below.