Saturday, September 18, 2004

But using words less dignified

The Ottawa Citizen has a fantastic editorial today explaining why they dare to use the term terrorist (oddly enough) to describe terrorists: [The CBC and some wire services] argue that "terrorist" is a subjective term, laden with too much emotion, and that the imperative to be impartial prohibits journalists from using it. We reject the argument. Terrorism is a technical term. It describes a modus operandi, a tactic. We side with security professionals who define terrorism as the deliberate targeting of civilians in pursuit of a political goal. Those who bombed the nightclub in Bali were terrorists. Suicide bombers who strap explosives to their bodies and blow up people eating in a pizza parlour are terrorists. The men and women who took a school full of hostages in Beslan, Russia, and shot some of the children in the back as they tried to flee to safety were terrorists. We as journalists do not violate our impartiality by describing them as such. It's nice to see a paper, casually anti-American and foolishly left in other ways as it might be, remember what's important. CBC has the argument in favour of moral equivocation: The global managing editor for Reuters, David Schlesinger, called the changes unacceptable. He said that CanWest crossed a line from editing for style, to editing the substance and slant of news from the Middle East. "If they want to put their own judgment into it, they're free to do that, but then they shouldn't say that it's by a Reuters reporter," said Schlesinger. Frankly, it would improve my opinion of Reuters significantly were I to notice them appropriately using the world 'terrorist.' Which, I suppose, makes this story one of those things that works out for everyone: We're reminded that Reuters is, institutionally, (at best) unappealingly amoral, and perhaps even rooting for the other side. For some reason, they just think that's a good thing.

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