About The Project

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                                                                                                      From left to right: Yuma, Jameel,Olivia, Li, Paula, Husam and Anina.


In the summer of 2010, seven students of international background attended the Berkeley Summer Institute. As we learned about the complexities of media in the Middle East, we set out to answer one question: What is the global perception of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations? Using our various language skills and regional knowledge, each of us spent a week examining how media outlets in our chosen geographic regions were portraying the conflict. We focused on online news sources specifically, and how news on the Internet creates a unique new genre of news coverage. We used our research to form what we called "The Talk Shop," a space within which to report our findings, draw larger comparisons between our media regions, and inform whoever cares to listen about how the relationship between media, politics, religion and society shapes the way in which news is reported.

While our group set out to give a unified report of how global media online is portraying the conflict and why, we quickly realized the inherent faults in this approach. As people with diverse and very specific life experiences, how could we all interpret and analyze media in the same way? How could we choose a theory or even an overall thesis to discuss when we all relate to the conflict, read the news, and think in such different ways? If we all come from such different perspectives and were examining such different countries?

So we decided to succumb to our divisions. Rather than force ourselves to agree and present a cohesive report, we realized that our strength came from our disagreements and diversity. We abandoned objectivity and instead, decided to embrace our subjectivity and address it, to explain it to our audience and remain transparent in our analysis. What we have ended up with, is not a homogeneous, unified report, but rather a very realistic and unique look at what happens when situated knowledge (aka our own life experiences) butts heads with attempts to dissect the enigma we refer to as “the news”. Some of us found that we didn't even believe “mainstream media” existed in our countries, some of us related our analysis to economic approaches in our countries, and some of us found that our personal backgrounds made dissecting media in our region near impossible.

While we all attempted to focus on four “themes” in our region's media – actors emphasized, semantics used, political and economic background, and the context within which this is all reported- we all defined these categories differently and interpreted these themes within our countries differently. Even journalists striving for the highest professional objectivity inevitably have their own weltanschauung which informs the manner in which they make sense of events and turn them into stories for the public. Individuals not only see events through an individualized prism of understanding, but they also work within a specific political and cultural environment, which provides a latent context for their thoughts. We, as members of "The Talk Shop" therefore exercised caution in drawing too definite of a conclusion to span every country analyzed. We realized that even if facts can be established, their delivery will inherently contain the judgment of their author (the authors being ourselves as well as the reporters we analyzed). In some ways, what you read on these pages is a more realistic and personal account of media than any uniform “group project” could have produced. We decided not to fight about how to unify, but instead to allow ourselves to express our own creative voices and opinions. After all, media and reporting itself is never truly “objective” and each and every news consumer relates to and reads the news differently. Why should we fight our subjectivity? Each country tab will give you not only an unique analysis of how the country's media is portraying the Israel-Palestine negotiations, but will also provide a personal account of how each author's subjectivity, or weltanschauung, affected their analysis. If the analysis seems “uneven” or disjointed, it is because as complex and diverse individuals we can not help but produce complex and diverse results.


Findings

The way in which the media of each country presented the Israel-Palestine conflict depended largely on the symbiotic relationship between media, public opinion, and political relations. Mainstream online  media in each country slants the news towards their audience, or the citizens of their country. Those citizens in turn form their judgments of the conflict based on the political and economic relations of their country to Israel and Palestine and the way these events are portrayed in the media. We found that a cyclical relationship exists between politics, current events, public opinion and media reporting. Public opinion is formed by the information the public receives, which in turn forms their political choices. Political choices in turn form the policy of the country and shapes the direction of the media.   

Whereas mainstream media online influences citizens opinions, there also exists an aspect of citizen journalism online that uses citizens opinions to influence media. Bloggers, non-profit organizations, and independent journalists all harness the power of the internet and new multimedia technologies to fill in the gaps left by mainstream media online. The freedom and creativity of the internet allows for alternative narratives to be viewed side by side with mainstream media outlets.

Below is a more visual summary of the content you will find throughout this website. (note: press fullscreen to view complete text)