Subject: Re: ..and you should remove the story from the web site immediately
From: Norman Fenton
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2006 15:06:12 +0000
To: Alex Hudson
CC: Norman Fenton ,,


Thank you for your response.

I would be happy to work with you as suggested on an article for the next issue and I would recommend that  Itamar Kastner (who I discovered yesterday also offered his insights from an Israeli perspective) should be included in such an article (you could then incorporate the perspectives of a native Israeli and somebody who was, like Malika, also there visiting close family but on the Israeli side). Friday would be a good day to talk if that is convenient for you.

However, I have to make it clear to you up-front that a simple counter-argument article is not sufficient as a response. There are too many aspects of the November issue that breached any reasonable conventions of good journalism. And so, in addition to the counter-argument article, some of these must be dealt with in a full apology from the Editor as explained below.

The idea that it was somehow good to 'spark a debate' is troubling. If an article had been published in which an interviewee was allowed to sympathetically state that "All Muslims are terrorists" or that "All blacks are muggers" or that "all Irish are ignorant" then there is no doubt that such an article would have provoked a ferocious 'debate'. That does not make it right. And you as an Editor would have known not allow such comments into print. Yet, you not only allowed statements like "Israel is a tyrant and murderer" to be included, but you did so in a context that made it clear that the magazine was in sympathy with such racist hyperbole. Since any reasonable counter-argument would not resort to similar ignorant and inflammatory comments, it is YOUR responsibility as Editor to print a clear and unequivocal apology for allowing such comments to be printed. It is also YOUR responsibility as Editor for:

- producing the ridiculous and irrational comments about the photo montage on the inside cover,

- enabling the interviewer to be duped by somebody clearly pushing the Hezbollah agenda without ever mentioning them by name; this went so far as to allow the chilling and threatening statement at the end "The government of Lebanon  ... like an overgrown tree it's going to be chopped down" which is in fact the stated agenda of Hezbollah and has been put into action in the last two weeks.
- using the factually incorrect strapline as described in my first letter.

- not checking the factual errors made by the interviewee as pointed out by myself and Itamar Kastner.

You have a duty to apologise explicitly for all of the above, since none of these have anything to do with the objective you seemed to have set for running the article. It should have been simple to produce a personal view of the war from a Lebanese perspective, without falling into any of the above traps.

You acknowledge (in your statement) that your intention to provide a different viewpoint should have been more clearly expressed at the bottom of the article in question. But you state that your reason for not doing so was that you did not have anybody lined up to provide such a viewpoint. This simply confirms to me that you were negligent as an Editor. If you did not already have an alternative viewpoint lined up why on earth did you go ahead with such an article?

Norman Fenton

Dear Norman,
I've attached the statement that we've drawn up in response to this issue,
however I would like to comment a few of your remarks independently.

The issue relates to Queen Mary Students' Union because it is relevant to
Queen Mary students. Regardless of the bias of the viewpoint, it is an
issue that is very important. As in the statement, we intend, as we always
have done, to print the other side of the story in the next issue, though
this should have been made clearer in the article itself.

I definitely think that this would be a perfect counter-argument to the
piece and if you would be interested, your idea sounds like amazing. I
would however, like to be present at the interview with Kate Connelly if
that is okay? When can we arrange this? I also believe, on a personal note
that Kate is neither naive or ignorant.

The main reason for the article is to move a debate into the public arena,
that has previously been happening behind closed doors and in lecture
theatres. I understand your viewpoint and I am deeply sorry for any
offence the article may have caused, but we do try to show both sides of
the argument. This is something we fully intend to do.

I look forward to your reply and any possible times/dates for the interview.

Alex Hudson
Cub Magazine

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