The language of objectivity: Reuters’ internal editorial discussions on terminology in the Arab–Israeli conflict, 1967–1982

Giora Goodman, Sandrine Boudana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Influenced by British journalistic traditions, Reuters is a global news agency embracing impartiality as a corporate norm rather than a professional standard. This impartiality, reflected in a careful choice of vocabulary, is meant to satisfy all of Reuters’ subscribers. However, our study of Reuters’ archives demonstrates that this corporate objectivity is not an absolute principle, but the subject of internal debates and tensions, often provoked by subscribers’ reactions to particular news items. This is especially so in the case of the long-lasting and highly demanding coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict. Focusing on the 1967–1982 period, when the internal debates at Reuters proved to be particularly tense, our archival research revealed that discussions between the London headquarters and the Middle East offices revolved around four major issues, which are the focus of this article: (1) emotive wording, (2) naming of borders and capitals, (3) use of the term ‘Palestinian’ and (4) the ‘terrorist’ and ‘guerrilla’ labels. Analysis of the real-time recording of editorial difficulties faced by Reuters over the Arab–Israeli conflict in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrates how crucial, yet Quixotic, is Reuters’ ambition to reach consensus on a language of objectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-426
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Arab–Israeli conflict
  • Palestinian
  • Reuters
  • archival documentation
  • emotive language
  • objectivity
  • terrorist

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