Fairness & Accuracy

Mideast Report: January – March 2012

Former foreign editor John Felton conducts quarterly reviews of NPR's Israeli-Palestinian coverage. His 2012 first quarter report is now available online.

Felton reviewed 71 radio segments and 46 Web-only reports for accuracy, variety of voices, fairness, and balance. In general, Felton found that the coverage of the region was consistently accurate, but noted that—as usual—listeners heard more Israeli voices than Palestinian ones. "The scarcity of Palestinian voices reflects the ongoing lack of coverage of the West Bank and Gaza, certainly in relation to Israel," he wrote.

NPR devoted 41 of the radio segments to coverage of Iran's nuclear program. Felton found that NPR presented a broad range of views on the topic, although listeners heard directly from an Iranian official only once. The majority of reports used caution and reflected sensitivity to the subject. Felton praised Talk of the Nation specifically for airing "the most comprehensive coverage" with seven conversations about Iran's nuclear program.

However, Felton did find two instances of imprecision, including a March 7 interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel should have more directly challenged Oren's false claim that "the Iranian regime is openly saying it wants these [nuclear] weapons to wipe Israel off the map." He also suggested that NPR should provide a more adequate history of diplomacy over Iran's nuclear ambitions, noting that this conversation has been happening for more than a decade.

I encourage you to read the complete review. Quarterly reviews going back to 2008 are also available online.

John Felton prepares the quarterly evaluations. He has covered international affairs and U.S. foreign policy for more than 30 years. His most recent book, The Contemporary Middle East: A Documentary History, was published by CQ Press in 2007. A former foreign affairs reporter for Congressional Quarterly and foreign editor at NPR, he has been a freelance writer and editor since 1995.

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