Frame Game

“Skip the Commentary, Find the Reporting”

How Will Saletan kept up with this week’s news from Israel and Gaza.

Illustration by Charlie Powell.

Illustration by Charlie Powell

Hi. I’m Will Saletan. I’m Slate’s “National Correspondent,” even though nobody here calls me that. They think I’m a “Senior Editor” or something like that. I asked for the title “National Correspondent” 10 years ago because it’s so nebulous that it lets me write about anything: politics, science, sex, hot dog eating contests, whatever.

You’d think that “National Correspondent” would at least exclude writing about what was going on in other countries. But that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. First it was Iraq, then Gaza. So most of what I’ve been reading lately is news from the Middle East.

Keeping up with the news over there, when you’re stuck at a desk in Washington, is tricky. Most Arab newspapers and many Israeli ones aren’t available in English. Among those that are, you have to be careful. My favorite is Arutz Sheva, Israel’s Channel 7. People will tell you it’s biased. Of course it is! It’s Israel’s Fox News. The Israeli press has been cheerleading for the Israel Defense Forces even harder than the U.S. media did for our “war on terror” after 9/11. But Arutz Sheva is in its own class. It runs articles that consist entirely of IDF propaganda. It has boilerplate polemical paragraphs (about Hamas’ use of “human shields,” for example), which it sprays as liberally as rocket fire from Gaza.

But you know what? I love Arutz Sheva. For news, it’s totally on the ball. It feeds you all the IDF’s bulletins and spin, and it keeps you informed about the Israeli right the same way Fox News keeps you posted on the Republican Congress. You just have to understand what you’re reading: This is somebody’s point of view. For other points of view, look elsewhere.

Haaretz is a good place to read views from the Israeli left. For balanced coverage, you can try Ynetnews (Yedioth Ahronoth in English) or the Jerusalem Post. Before visiting the Post, I strongly advise disabling Flash in your browser. The Post’s pages run more script than a Torah and take longer to open and read.

For Arab perspectives, I look at Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Al-Monitor. For reporting from Palestine, the Ma’an News Agency is far and away the best. Much of what’s in the Arab media is armchair wankery. Ma’an is on the ground in Gaza with cold reporting of the dead and wounded.

This is how I how I read the news. Skip the commentary, find the reporting.  Expect bias, recognize it, factor it into your reading, and look for other sources that round out the picture. Trust no one. Avoid echo chambers. Keep all your assumptions open to review. You’ll never fully understand anything, but you’ll always be learning.

That’s also how we run things at Slate. There’s no party line here. I’ve compared Gaza with other wars, making the case that Israel’s efforts to spare civilians are exemplary. But I’ve also criticized Israel’s house demolition policy and its collective punishment of Palestinians. This week, Allison Benedikt wrote an impassioned essay that blames Birthright for the death of a young American who died fighting for the IDF in Gaza. And Fred Kaplan wrote a terrific critique of Israel’s myopic approach to the war.

That’s the kind of breadth and free inquiry we pursue here, with your support. Thanks for being a Slate Plus member.