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Is this what we mean by balanced coverage?

On September 11 the Portland, Maine newspaper, the Press-Herald, published on its front page this photograph of local Muslims praying as they ended the month-long observance of Ramadan. Then the newspaper’s editor and publisher, Richard L. Connor, apologized for having published the photograph and accompanying story:

.We made a news decision on Friday that offended many readers and we sincerely apologize for it.

Many saw Saturday’s front-page story and photo regarding the local observance of the end of Ramadan as offensive, particularly on the day, September 11, when our nation and the world were paying tribute to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.

We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.

Where are the apologies for the numerous times that Hollywood movies have portrayed Muslims as terrorists, before and after 2001? Or the apologies by the United States for having invaded the sovereign country of Iraq? Or by law enforcement agencies for profiling people who look like they might be Muslim?

But when a simple photograph showing members of a local Muslim community praying in Maine is published without front-page coverage of attacks on America by people of the same religion that occurred nine years previously, an apology is required for a lack of “balance to the story.”

Should every photograph of church-goers on Christmas be “balanced” by coverage of members of the Catholic clergy who acted as sexual predators, or every photograph of Jews in Los Angeles celebrating Chanuka be “balanced” by an article on the Israeli invasion of Gaza? Is this what we mean by balance, or by lunacy?

Click here to see the Press-Herald’s story and other images that were published. The headline and subhead are illuminating:

A show of faith and forgiveness

Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a celebration of life and an outpouring for those less fortunate.

These surely are not the most incendiary of headlines.

One Comment

  1. Alex Arbuckle wrote:

    I was born and raised in Portland. I went to elementary school alongside Muslim kids, as well as immigrants from Somalia, Cambodia,and eastern Europe. The original headline is representative of Portland’s attitude as a whole, I think — egalitarian, welcoming, and celebratory of all people.
    However, the Press-Herald, like all newspapers, is facing a serious problem of readership, and has had to downsize its workforce and its product (an entire page in the Local section is now devoted to user-submitted nature photos). Connor’s apology was likely motivated by a fear that they might lose even more readers. Unfortunately, this particular issue seems to be one in which the least informed and most extreme are the most outspoken. The Press-Herald probably did not receive any letters thanking it for its positive [fair] coverage of Portland’s Muslim community.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

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