Every time a new round of violence breaks out in Palestine or Israel, a parallel dispute surfaces around whether or not the media is biased toward one side of the conflict or the other. There is usually little agreement to be found.
Israel's latest invasion of Gaza, though, has brought with it a different discussion about the media's coverage. The debate has certainly not died down—headlines, stray quotes, pictures and interview counts are being scrutinized as closely as ever. Yet more and more people seem to agree that Israel is facing tougher coverage than it has in the past.
Headlines like "Why Israel Is Losing the American Media War" and "Israel Is Losing Control Of The Gaza Media War" have been popping up on mainstream news sites. But outlets that are explicitly supportive of either Israel, such as the Weekly Standard, or Palestine, such as Mondoweiss, are also saying the same thing.
The difference this time, most observers have argued, is that social media has both given audiences a closer and more vivid feel for the situation on the ground in Gaza and given journalists more tools and space to tell their stories.
Reporters who would have once been confined to a two-minute package on the nightly news, or a 1200-word story in the newspaper, now have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. The intimacy of such platforms, combined with the gruesome nature of the war and the overwhelmingly lopsided casualties, means that there are a great many more stories of Palestinian suffering being shared than in the past.
Critics would say that these raw reports lack crucial political context and analysis, but there is no question that they have had an impact on the overall story being told. (Whether this has any bearing on the broader political situation in the region is another matter.)
The new journalistic ecosystem has also showed, yet again, how faulty many of the old tools for judging media coverage are. The Internet has made certain metrics—such as the placement of stories in a newspaper—nearly irrelevant. Tyler Hick's heartbreaking dispatch about the Israeli killing of four boys on a Gaza beach made page A7 of the New York Times, something that would likely have drawn substantial criticism from pro-Palestinian voices in the past. In the Internet age, Hicks's story flew around Twitter and was widely shared.
Channel 4 reporter Paul Mason summed up the changed state of affairs well in a piece on Monday:
I don’t think I am the only person who has lost sleep or experienced anxiety due to the pervasive killing my social media streams are bringing to my daily life. What I mean is, if you are following these events, they can become far more real via social media – where your friends, acquaintances, colleagues etc – are reacting in real time -than when they were filtered via a daily news bulletin, or live reports from satellite points.