Arianna Huffington defends Journalists empathy with Gaza suffering – Interview
A public outcry erupted when the NBC pulled out its Gaza reporter, Aymen Mohyeldin, after he had broken the story of the killing of the four Palestinian children, while playing football on the beach. Eventually, the public pressure compelled NBC to reinstated Mohyeldin in Gaza.
Witnessing an unprecedented carnage unfolding before their eyes, many western reporters sucumbed to their emotions and failed to conceal their pain, shock and outrage in their daily reports. A CNN reporter, Diana Magnay, who showed Israelis cheering joyfully over a hill as they watched massive bombs incinerating civilian neighbourhood in Gaza, was removed from Gaza and assigned to Moscow, for calling those Israelis, who apparently threatened her and her crew, on her Twitter account “Scum.”
In a conversation with the Huffington Post’s founder and chief editor, Arianna Huffington, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, she said: “we cannot pretend that journalists are just robots, who are going to these areas and are not personally affected and of course the remaining objective and being able to do fact based reporting is essential, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t empathise with the suffering that you see around you.”
Seeing veteran reporters like Channel 4’s Jon Snow, making an emotional appeal to the world on his news programme to help the people of Gaza and stop the killing of children or Al Jazeera’s reporter breaking down in tears in front of the camera is, according to Huffington, understandable.
“With so many civilians dying it’s incredibly emotional and it’s very hard to be in the middle of this conflict and not to be affected by what you see and what is happening,” she says.
Often featured on the most powerful women lists, The Greek-American author founded the independent news website The Huffington Post in 2005. By July 2012, the website was ranked #1 on the 15 Most Popular Political Sites list by eBizMBA Rank and recently has surpassed the New York Times in the number of online readers.
Three years ago, the website was acquired by AOL for $315 million, but Huffington, who remains editor-in-chief insists that the purchase hasn’t impinge on its independence. “We call our reporting beyond left and right,” she enthuses. “Because the truth is that when you look at what the world is mostly dealing with now, you cannot divide these issues into left/right issues.”
Indeed, in addition to employing 800 journalists, reporters, editors and engineers, to gather news and do the traditional press work, Huffington Post has a large community of bloggers from all walks of life, who write for the website albeit without pay, which has attracted some criticism.
Huffington rejects the criticism, insisting that her goal is to give voice to tens of thousands of people without compromising facts or quality. “They blog because they want a large platform to distribute their ideas and often they cross paths but they are writing on their Facebook walls, or what they are writing on their own blogs and so often it’s getting just extra distribution because the Huffington Post has 95 million unique visitors across the world and in eleven countries and we are launching in India, the Middle East and Greece by the end of the year.”
Huffington Post’s balanced reporting hasn’t gone down well with some of Israel’s supporters in the US, who condemn every media outlet which dares astray from the Israeli government line as anti-semitic. The website has vehemently denied these accusations, and continues undeterred to present the Palestinian perspective next to the Israeli one.
Huffington won’t comment directly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead she calls for cultivating empathy and compassion. “We need generally, whether we are journalists or not, to approach life beyond the first two metrics of success, money and power, to include the third metric, that connects us to fellow human beings and that falls into empathy and compassion when we see the kind of suffering that’s been described in the news,” she says.
Problem is that I often hear people in the media and film business saying that they are too wary of expressing their empathy and compassion openly with the suffering in Gaza, lest they lose their jobs and power.