Readers Write: Democracy needs better media; Israel's right to defend itself

Letters to the Editor for the weekly print issue of December 17, 2012: The media needs to do a better job providing citizens with dependable, unbiased information. Regarding the latest conflict in Gaza, Israel only decided to fight back after Hamas attacks became unbearable.

Democracy needs trustworthy media

How refreshing to read Kurt Shillinger's Nov. 19 op-ed, "It's 2033, and civility thrives in Washington," suggesting political and governmental steps toward achieving that goal. It was appropriate for him to close by reminding us that nothing will be possible without the people's resolve. But there was one gaping hole in his road to progress – the role of media.

Mass communications are increasingly complex and divisive. During the presidential campaign, independent efforts were needed to check the "facts" spread in speeches and ads. We witnessed that even facts can be presented inaccurately. Slanted news coverage and soft interviews leave a reader, listener, or viewer asking, "But what's the real story?"

Gone are the days, it seems, when journalism was a calling and mission with a critical role in society. It now seems more preoccupied with producing revenue. Most of the world's major media are owned by a handful of corporations. They are beholden to shareholder profits, not a duty to inform the public or rein in government.

Mr. Shillinger did include "a more discerning consumption of information" among people's responsibilities if they are to "take back the government." It would certainly help if the media itself better shouldered its responsibilities to generate dependable information in the first place.

M.K. Merelice

Brookline, Mass.

Israel's right to defend itself

In Jonathan Adelman's Dec. 10 op-ed, "Hamas is no winner in Gaza cease-fire," he correctly writes of the 1,500 rockets that Hamas fired into Israel during the recent eight-day conflict and the effect this had on Israel. However, I do not think it is made clear enough why Israel retaliated.

Israel has been subjected to thousands of rockets, fired from Hamas, over the course of the past few years. If Canada were shooting this many rockets into the United States, would there be dispute as to whether or not the US had the right to defend itself? Israel only decided to fight back after attacks became unbearable.

Miriam Lichtenberg

Teaneck, N.J.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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