Many prominent issues raised in the recent conflict in Iraq regarded journalists and journalistic practice. Did “embedded” reporters get the real story, or did they report fawningly on their protectors? Why were some initial reports, such as the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, so inaccurate? Was the coverage of some American organizations too supportive of the war effort — or not supportive enough?
Amidst all the debate, no news organization drew as much attention as al-Jazeera. With its Western-trained (and often Western-educated) journalists, unabashedly Arab perspective, uncensored reporting, and unique access to both al-Qaeda and Donald Rumsfeld, al-Jazeera has angered as many people as it has pleased.
The 24-hour news network has faced tremendous criticism by many in the United States government. While some media have jumped to al-Jazeera’s defense, others have accused it of irresponsible journalism. Three experts, two of whom have worked as journalists in the Middle East, shared their views with us on a series of complex issues. Select the topics below to see the questions and answers.
Mohammed el-Nawawy, Egyptian born and raised, worked as a journalist in the Middle East and the United States. His experience includes working for the Middle East News Agency, the Associated Press in Cairo, and the BALTIMORE SUN. El-Nawawy has conducted extensive research on the Middle East media. He is the author of two books: THE ISRAELI-EGYPTIAN PEACE PROCESS IN THE REPORTING OF WESTERN JOURNALISTS, and AL-JAZEERA: HOW THE FREE ARAB NEWS NETWORK SCOOPED THE WORLD AND CHANGED THE MIDDLE EAST. El-Nawawy has a Ph.D. in journalism and is professor of communication at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
Marda Dunsky is an assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, where, in fall 2002, she introduced a new undergraduate seminar, Reporting the Arab and Islamic Worlds. She worked as an editor at the CHICAGO TRIBUNE from 1983 to 1988, and as an Arab affairs reporter for THE JERUSALEM POST during 1988 to 1990, covering the Palestinian minority in Israel. Dunsky’s op-ed and analysis pieces on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict/peace process have been published in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, THE WASHINGTON POST, and the CAPE TIMES (South Africa). Her research on related media issues has been published in ARAB STUDIES QUARTERLY and the JOURNAL OF ISLAMIC LAW AND CULTURE.
Joan Konner is Professor and Dean Emerita of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She served as dean from 1988 to 1997 and as publisher of the COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW from 1988 to 1999. Before going to Columbia, Konner worked in both public and commercial television for 26 years. During that time she produced and wrote more than 50 documentaries and served as executive producer of several major public affairs series. Her work has been honored by almost every major award for broadcast journalism, including 16 Emmys, the George Foster Peabody Award, and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Television and Radio. Her most recent documentary, SHE SAYS/WOMEN IN NEWS, was broadcast on PBS in December 2001. The program earned an Emmy as “outstanding informational programming in the long form.”