Sidsel Wold has been Middle Eastern-correspondent for the state broadcaster NRK for many years. She is currently on leave, writing a book about her years as a reporter, mainly from Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Wold has become an irritant to many people who are fed up with years of anti-Israeli propaganda from a public funded broadcaster, similar to the critique directed at the BBC.
Emotions ran high during last summer’s war. For the first time a vocal opinion gained ground, arresting journalists for their massive mobilisation of human touch stories, not for the sake of humanity, but for the sake of bashing Israel, and not commenting on the tunnels, the cynical deployment of civilians as human shields. The intention was too obvious.
Wold is rather crude in her reporting and took a lot of flak. Instead of putting things off for later, she became emotionally involved, and starting lashing out at her critics.
She retells to the daily VG (27/10, not online) how she called up a guy who tweeted that she was a «notorious Israel basher» and demanded an explanation. He folded and withdrew the comment immediately. Her reason: She is writing a book and did not want to have a bad reputation among English-speaking people.
Her reaction illustrates Wold’s problem: She has covered what used to be the most contentious conflict. She has answered critics that her job is not to be objective or neutral, but to see things from a human rights perspective. Where there is suffering, her heart will go out. Since she spends her time in Gaza, her coverage becomes massively pro-Palestinian, emotional and engaged.
Engagement is not conducive to objectivity. One is tempted to identify with the victims. This is a mistake that almost the entire Norwegian media has committed. Wold’s problem is NRK’s problem.
She is a notorious Israel-basher, and so are almost all Norwegian journalists. Israel/Palestine has become an extension of Norwegian national politics, and that is bad. Bad for Israel, bad for the Jews of Norway.
Wold tries to personify the human heart of the humanitarian nation Norway to identify with the sufferers. And so does the media. But someone stands to gain from their coverage and asks for more. Sometimes, the best of intentions can lead one astray. «Infotainment» is a slipperly slope.
The leadership of NRK has backed her promotion of human rights as the lodestar of reporting. By calling up critics and reprimanding them, Wold shows what empathy journalism can lead to: indoctrinating readers, disiplining them and, yes, bashing them.
NRK should hurriedly reconsider its reporting and sober up before the next war takes them over the top.