Crisis in the Middle East: How News Organizations Cover Conflict

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To start on a light note today: I've posted pictures from Jack Hanna's visit to our New York City studio last week. We taped a show with Jack and his animals — not sure when we will air it — and I handed my point-and-shoot to someone to shoot some still pics (posted) while we taped it. As usual, Jack brought some exotic animals… and a duck.

Now on a more serious note: the troubles in the Middle East and how we make decisions to cover it.

I don't know if you watched FOX News at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday, but we did two live "On the Record" shows because of the importance of the events going on in the world over the weekend. We wanted to come in on the weekend and do the live show so that we could bring you the news as it happens. When important news is happening, we want to cover it. Every journalist in every news organiation I know feels the same.

Because I promised you the behind the scenes, I should tell you that with any major story there is always the discussion of how best to get you the news. Tons of phones calls go back and forth between New York and D.C. every time there is a major story.

The questions and decisions to be made by FOX management (and each news organization) are many, including: who should we send there and how many people? My experience is that lots volunteer even if danger is involved. People in the news business want to go and collect it for you. It is in everyone's blood.

Many are disappointed when they are not sent to cover the story, but there is a reason: we need people on all fronts to be ready to cover any other news that might develop in other parts of the world or at home. We can't send everyone. This is true of every news organization.

Who we send and how many depends mostly on how many experienced correspondents and producers we already have in the area. If we already have a strong team in place (i.e. a strong regional bureau who has lived and breathed the story for years), then we send fewer people than we might otherwise send. That makes sense.

Each news organizations has a finite number of resources and each organization has to figure out how best to allocate resources to cover — completely — any given story. And a news organization must also have that reserve manpower in case events break on other stories in other parts of the world. For instance: What if the war in Israel suddenly stops (e.g. diplomacy sets in and the talks move to another part of the world) and what if the wildfires in California get a huge wind putting many more at risk? How do we get you that news most effectively? We need to make sure we are ready for stories and events that we have no idea might happen any second. We need to reserve some resources for that "what if?"

So with every huge story we ask ourselves: Who is there and do we need more?

As an aside: When there is a breaking news story, everyone is willing to put in as much time as it takes to get you the story. People work hard in the media.

While members of the media don't brag about it or wear it on their sleeves (or should not), the Katrina coverage is probably the best example of everyone trying to get you the news. Everyone — and I mean everyone — in the media worked around the clock to get you the news. Many in the media spent lots of days and weeks in New Orleans and the Gulf States and many made multple trips back since the hurricane.

People back home in the various bureau also worked around the clock on Katrina, since all coverage has to come through a central location to get on your TV screen. Someone has to get it on the screen for you to see it. You did not have to be up to your waist in contaminated water or in a boat to work around the clock on this tragedy. It was an "all hands on deck" for entire news organizations. No one does news alone, but I sometimes think that is the impression left on viewers.

Bragging about covering Katrina when there was so much death and suffering is tacky — but I do want to note that so many worked night and day on the other side of the camera to get you the news who you did not see. They never got credit for the hard work. I admire the work and work ethic of so many you never see. It was certainly not just the anchors and correspondents.

By the way, my former employer Ted Turner used to say, in essence, that the news is the star — another way to say that we anchors and correspondents are not and should not be. He is right. Yes, there is inevitable notoriety that correspondents and anchors get covering a story, but it is the news we are to promote.

Now for some of your e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

As a confirmation of Israel's abhorence to targeting civilians on both sides, it was recently reported on Israel Channel 10 news that Lebanese civilians are being warned to distance themselves from Hezbollah bases and bunkers. Compare this fact with Hezbollah's direct targeting of Israel's civilian cities. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist groups and they constantly and specifically target civilian centers, with suicide bombers and rockets. Israel's goal is to rid Lebanon of the Iranian and Syrian controlled Hezbollah as well as to the safe return of the kidnapped soldiers. What would any country do if it's border guards were attacked, killed and kidnapped while it's territory was invaded? By any international standards, this is an act of war.
David Holtzer
Kibbutz Urim, Negev

E-mail No. 2

I sit here watching your show listening to an American complain about the government not getting her out! I can't believe people still think it is our obligation to come to their rescue even though they don't heed any warnings about the dangerous situations around the world. Tell that woman, "Too bad, suck it up."
B. Bowling

E-mail No. 3

The only thing "disproportionate" about Israel's response to having their country invaded and a soldier captured was they used too SMALL of a response. I bet if this action was against the U.S., we would have cut them off at the knees and pronto! No "restraint" is called for. These terrorists only know one thing and that is killing unmercifully and when a country that is supposed to be democratic elects a terrorist leader then innocent people pay the price! Sad but inevitable.
Ginny Retting
Dover, DE

E-mail No. 4 — This next e-mail is about the murder of the real estate agent in Texas and her ex-husband setting up a fund for their 4-year-old child:

I can't imagine that people who wear Rolex watches and develop real estate need to set up a fund for that woman's son. I bet that his daddy will be able to take quite good care of him.
Kim Cronin
Saint Louis, MO

E-mail No. 5

Dear Greta,
What has happened/is happening in Washington, D.C., is no different that what is happening in numerous American cities across the nation. The nation would be surprised at the total number of murders if we added them all together. Choosing just Jacksonville, Florida (70), Washington, D.C., (13) and New Orleans (50), we have an epidemic which requires the same attention that we are giving to other countries to fight terrorism. These murders could/should be labeled as "urban terroristic acts" and illicit the same response from this administration as that of Beirut/Israel. Our citizens deserve the same protection as the citizen's in Bagdad or Kabul. It is all to easy to separate these murders into groups such as random acts, domestic violence, drug/gang related and thus say "there is no real problem." Tell that to the parents of the little 13-year-old girl in Jacksonville, who was killed by a stray bullet while reading a book in her bed.
Thank you,
Frank Odell
Saint Marys, GA

E-mail No. 6

I have family in Lebanon. They are American citizens. My family in Lebanon are being told that they have to pay (or be loaned) $6,000-7,000 to evacuate Lebanon and go to Cyprus and once they get to Cyprus they are on their own! Can you please investigate this information? From the information on the news they make it sound as if the evacuees will be taken care of all the way to the United States! Please help!
Reema Hatoum

E-mail No. 7 — I could not resist posting this one. By the way, I received a few e-mails from Shep yesterday — he is in Israel and he is safe. He will be anchoring his two shows from Israel ("Studio B" at 3 p.m. ET and "The FOX Report" at 7 p.m. ET today/tonight… so watch.)

Is it just me, or does Shepard Smith look like he is the grandson of Dano of "Hawaii Five-O"?
Please investigate!
Mike Hambuchen
Conway, AR

E-mail No. 8

I was wondering, since it has become common knowledge that the official 9/11 story was a fabrication, when you were planning to address what really happened?
Zach Adams


E-mail No. 9

You have so much common sense, I like writing to you for your thinking. You had to give up your weekend off to come in to cover the Middle-East conflict! This afternoon I heard Trace Gallagher announce that Shepard Smith will be reporting "from the region" next week. Shep had ended "FOX Report" on Friday night by saying he was going on a week's vacation! From CNN, Anderson Cooper is already over there. ABC has Charles Gibson on his way, and NBC is sending Brian Williams. Tell me, why do the news organizations think they have to send all of their high-profile anchors into a warzone to report on it? Look at what happened to Bob Woodruff and several other journalists and crews reporting "from the region"! Good reporters are already assigned to these areas. They are familiar with the country, have contacts there and already know their way around. I don't want to see ANYONE injured or killed and wars are barbaric, but it seems so unncessary to add these beloved anchors into the mix. You need your weekends off, too! My husband says it's all about ratings! Good grief!
Tempe Berggren
Gold Beach, OR

ANSWER: You are right — we don't have to go to the area to report the story, but there is value to going there. You can see things for yourself. That has value. But, I agree, when you have a strong team on the scene you don't have to go.

Finally, this article appeared in my hometown newspaper — The Appleton Post Crescent — and caught my attention, since I own one share in the Green Bay Packers:

Packers shareholders in for treat

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