Tuesday, June 03, 2003


As Americans across the country tune in to reports on the War on Terrorism, particularly domestic reports, what they read in newspapers or see on their television sets may be radically different from the true state of affairs. The culprit? Diversity guidelines drafted by the Society of Professional Journalists less than one month after the September 11th terror attacks.

For instance, one bullet point in the SPJ guidelines urges journalists to "avoid using terms such as 'jihad' unless you are certain of their precise meaning and include the context when they are used in quotations." It insists that "the basic meaning of 'jihad' is to exert oneself for the good of Islam and to better oneself." Applied to mainstream journalism, an article is not considered appropriate if the definition of jihad it exposes does not correlate well with the politically correct SPJ assertion.

Other guidelines instruct writers to distort the very nature of the terrorist threat. One calls terms such as "Islamic terrorist" and "Muslim extremist" misleading, especially when "geographic, political, socioeconomic or other distinctions might be more accurate."

The SPJ would prefer the term "Saudi Arabian terrorists," but such a description leaves the reader with a much less correct impression of the nature and motive of the terrorist than one using the adjective "Muslim."

The SPJ's last and perhaps most dangerous guideline is simple, yet it poses a true threat to objective reporting. It urges journalists to "Ask men and women from within targeted communities to review your coverage and make suggestions." This guideline destroys the nature of objective reporting by making journalists accountable to the objects of their research. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes has compared the policy to "a columnist calling in a tobacco executive to edit an article about the health risks of smoking, or giving an advertiser the chance to edit a story about his industry."

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