I met the folks from The Media Line when I was in Israel last spring. Run by a husband-and-wife team, we met through a mutual radio station based in New Hampshire. Michael is co-founder and executive editor, and Felice is president, CEO and executive producer.
I was impressed with their offices and their journalism. They describe themselves as a non-profit news agency and not aligned with any political positions. Felice Friedson also began the Mid-East Press Club. They believe in freedom of access for all journalists. We need a news agency, run by Americans without bias, in that area of the world.
They describe the Middle East as a “daunting place these days” and it surely is. The Friedsons say news is not something we can take for granted, and it’s important to stop and think, “Why something is impacting my life, why should I care?”
The Friedsons train young American journalists in Middle East journalism in their “Press and Policy” student program. Their concern is that the peace process has not moved an inch. In their interviews, they’ve learned the Palestinian youth in the region are “confused and out of hope, as well as the fact that there is a huge gap between youth and government.” According to them, the youth are saying they want “Israel to understand that we are frustrated and in pain.”
All journalism students could learn from the Friedsons and their Media Line. One of their mottos is “Not first, but quality” – sound advice for journalists who are racing to get a story told in today’s news cycle. What they strive for is to be complete, truthful and accurate when telling the story, and they strive to have “integrity, honesty and truthfulness” in reporting.
One of things the folks from The Media Line talked about when they were in the United States last week was the coverage of different stories, especially the Khashoggi murder and the existence of the tunnels. They said the fate of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia depends on what Arab press you read. Felice Freidson also suggested there was silence from the Arab world about the tunnels.
In terms of social media, their belief is that it should be monitored. I agree. Anything that is written by people should be monitored and mined for opinions.
One of the things to which we should pay attention, they say, is what people on the street are saying. That is important to the folks at The Media Line. On their website, you can even read what is trending in the Arab Press. Where else in the world can you read news, as well as what the foreign press is writing about?
They believe, and I do as well, that the job of the press is to talk about and report on when the government does something right and when it does something wrong. There is also a culture of respect that we are lacking now. It was interesting to note that the Freidson’s referred to the work of Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) with Operation Respect. We need more respect for all, including journalists.
As I write this, I am attending a Mormon wedding. I am not Mormon, but there is mutual respect between all the invited guests.
There needs to be mutual respect with journalists and journalism. We can’t run a free society without it. It is important, as the Friedsons say, to allow people to decide for themselves once they have the facts. As they say, they’ve never before seen the toxicity present in the last year, but they continue to put lives (theirs and the people that work for The Media Line) on the line every day to write the stories.
It is amazing that there is an American outlet operating in the Middle East not interested in a party line, and that allows all voices to be heard. As Felice Friedson always asks her interns, “What is happening on the street?” The question that we all need to ask is, “Is the media pushing policy or is policy pushing the media?”
When I told one of our radio stations about The Media Line, the host told me their news director says, “Tell them the truth and then get out of there.” The Media Line tells the truth, and we should all pay attention to that – as that is what the media was put on this earth for.