Media Bias

Letter Writing Tips from CAMERA.ORG

Respond while the issue is still fresh in the minds of the journalists and their audience. Try to send your letter within a week of the broadcast or article.

State the point of your letter within the first two sentences. A reader scanning the letter should be able to quickly identify your view of the issue in question.

If writing a critical letter, be specific about why the article or broadcast was unfair. Was it inaccurate, out-of-context, one-sided? If it was partisan, whom did it favor? For example, “Your report inappropriately quoted only pro-Palestinian sources, leaving the Israeli position unrepresented.”

Be concise. Most publications will not print more than 250-300 words for a letter to the editor. Check to see what your paper’s limit is and stick to it. Editors tend to publish letters they don’t have to spend time shortening. When publication is not your goal (e.g. writing to a TV news station), you can expand your commentary, but do not exceed two pages.

Limit your topic. While an article or broadcast may contain numerous instances of bias, focus on just one or two. Your opening line can refer to the overall skew of the broadcast/article, but then zero-in, e.g. “Your broadcast unfairly disparaged Israel with its numerous factual and contextual errors. One such error was…” It’s better to fully explain one point than to inadequately cover five.

If you are writing with publication in mind, do not restate the inaccuracies of the article. Doing so only gives them more exposure. Refer to them briefly and only as a launch for your own points, e.g. “Smith’s partisan article on Jerusalem did the public a disservice. Key elements missing were [points A,B,C].”

Stick to the facts. Hostile or overly emotional language is counterproductive. If you need factual information, consult CAMERA, AIJAC, AIPAC, the nearest Israeli Consulate or the Myths & Facts website: www.camera.org, http://www.aijac.org.au/, www.aipac.org, www.israel.org, www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html

Write as a concerned individual. Mentioning that you are responding to an alert may lessen the impact of your letter.

Maximize the impact. Send a copy of your letter not just to the editor, but also to the reporter, foreign editor, publisher…to advertisers/sponsors of the broadcast…to members of parliament if the report was on public radio or television…When writing to a syndicated columnist, be sure to send a copy to the paper the columnist works for, as well as to your local paper if the column appears there.

Follow up with a call to the editor of the Letters-to-the-Editor page to ask if your letter will be published. If the answer is no, ask why and what you could do to make your letter more acceptable for publication. If the editor doesn’t remember your letter, offer to read it over the phone and/or re-email it. If your letter is published, make yourself memorable by writing a note to the editor thanking him/her for allowing your concerns to be shared with the public.

Before publishing a letter, most papers will call to verify that you wrote it. Remember, particularly if you’re using e-mail, to include your full name, title (if applicable), address and daytime phone number.

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